FY18 Open Textbooks Program Appropriation an Important Step for College Students

For Immediate Release

Statement by Kaitlyn Vitez, higher education advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, on the inclusion of an open textbook program appropriation in the FY18 omnibus budget just introduced in Congress.

Washington, DC — Today, Congress introduced its budget omnibus bill for the 2018 fiscal year, in which appropriators set aside $5 million for a program to lower textbook costs for students.

“Students paying way too much for college textbooks were heard loud and clear today. Congressional leaders, especially Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), who leads on education appropriations issues in the Senate, and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who has championed this issue for many years, are reaching across the aisle to lower college costs for students,” Vitez said.

U.S. PIRG estimates that the country’s 5.2 million undergraduate students who receive financial aid spend about $3 billion annually on textbooks and codes. Recent analysis by Vitez shows that online access codes and other restrictive materials have contributed to the dramatic increase in textbook costs, which have risen more than three times the rate of inflation in the past decade.

The omnibus bill makes a major investment in open textbooks, which are published under a license that makes them freely accessible to students and easily adaptable by faculty, and could save college students more than $50 million on materials costs. In the pilot program, colleges can apply for grants to help their instructors transition from higher priced materials to open textbooks.

Senator Durbin has authored the Affordable College Textbook Act, which would make the program started by this appropriation permanent.

You can read more about the advocacy effort that lead to this appropriation here.

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U.S. PIRG is a non-profit, non-partisan consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. The Student PIRGs are independent statewide student organizations that work on issues like environmental protection, consumer protection, and hunger and homelessness.