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STCC Obtains Federal Grant to Lower Cost of Textbooks for Students

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield Technical Community College is one of six colleges that received a federal grant that aims to increase the number of college courses that use free Open Educational Resources rather than costly textbooks.

STCC is part of a consortium that received a $440,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education for a new project to add more access to free Open Educational Resources (OERs). The goal of the grant is to make college more affordable and inclusive.

Chelsea Contrada, STCC’s OER librarian, said the grant will help STCC support its mission to remove barriers for underrepresented students. According to a survey of STCC students, about 70% of them said they decided against buying or renting a textbook because of the cost.

Contrada said OERs not only help students save money, but offer faculty resources for their classrooms. OERs are educational materials in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video, and animation.

“We currently have about 70 courses with zero textbook cost, with more added each semester,” Contrada said.

“We are so excited for the opportunity to be a part of this grant,” Contrada added. “The program will certainly save students money on textbooks, but it will also create materials and learning environments that are more equitable and culturally relevant for our students.”

This project is called “Remixing Open Textbooks through an Equity Lens (ROTEL): Culturally Relevant Open Textbooks for High Enrollment General Education Courses and Career and Professional Courses at Six Public Massachusetts Colleges.” Librarians and faculty will receive training and assistance in the creation and adaptation of OER materials that are accessible, intentionally inclusive and representative of the student population.

Faculty at STCC say they welcome using OERs in their classrooms.

“The average textbook in a science class like mine would be a few hundred dollars,” said Brandon Poe, professor of Biological Sciences at STCC. “They usually have to buy a couple of books, so in one class they’re laying out $500 or $600. I wanted to find an option that would be more affordable for students. My payoff is having students getting quality material that they don’t have to shell out a whole lot of money for.”

Colleges taking part in the effort, in addition to STCC, include Framingham State University, Fitchburg State University, Holyoke Community College, Northern Essex Community College and Salem State University, in consortium with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

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