University Of Illinois System Awarded $1 Million Open Textbook Pilot Grant

The federal grant program is based on Durbin’s bill to improve college textbook access and affordability

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the University of Illinois (U of I) System has been awarded $1.08 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Open Textbooks Pilot Program – a competitive grant program based on Durbin’s Affordable College Textbook Act.  The funding will support the creation and expand the use of open college textbooks – textbooks that are available under an open license, allowing professors, students, researchers, and others to freely access the materials.  

“Too often, students decline to purchase required course materials because of cost and put themselves at a competitive disadvantage,” Durbin said. “Open textbooks provide an affordable and effective option for students and faculty. The University of Illinois has been a leader in promoting open educational resources and I am pleased they are receiving this federal funding to support and expand their efforts. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and the Biden Administration to build on this program and continue finding ways to address college affordability.”

The grant will fund Illinois SCOERs (Support for Creation of Open Educational Resources), a program that will provide access to open textbooks and personalized learning tools for entry-level courses in high-demand health care and human development career paths. The program will be administered by the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI), a network led by the U of I System that will make open textbooks and other resources available to students through CARLI’s 127 members statewide, including 119 higher education institutions.

“Illinois SCOERs is a true statewide enterprise that will fundamentally change the open educational resources landscape in Illinois by providing a new holistic support model that will promote student success through OER awareness, implementation, growth, and adoption,” said Anne Craig, senior director of CARLI.

“The challenges facing higher education require collaborative solutions, and we are grateful to Sen. Durbin for supporting an initiative that will benefit students across Illinois,” said Barbara J. Wilson, executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs for the U of I System. “Changing the model for access to textbooks and other learning tools is important, especially as we address issues of social and educational equity.”

Durbin has helped secure $24 million for the Open Textbooks Pilot Program over the last four years. The University of Illinois System is one of nine grant recipients nationwide selected for Fiscal Year 2021. Later this month, Durbin will be leading a group of Senators in requesting an additional $25 million for the program in Fiscal Year 2022 to support additional grants and savings for students.

Textbook costs are one of the most overlooked costs of going to college, but they can be substantial and can be a barrier to attaining a college education. According to The College Board, the average student budget for college books and supplies during the 2020-2021 academic year was $1,298 at four-year public institutions. According to a survey by U.S. PIRG, 65 percent of students decided not to buy a textbook because of the cost and 94 percent of those students worried it would negatively affect their grade.