“Our mission? Ensure that every student has access to the high quality learning materials they need — at little-to-no cost.”

– Kaitlyn Vitez – PIRG Higher Education Program Director

According to the College Board, the average undergraduate student should budget between $1,200 and $1,300 for textbooks and supplies each year. That’s as much as 40% of tuition at a two-year community college and 13% at a four-year public institution.

For many students and families already struggling to afford a college degree, that is simply too much – meaning more debt, working longer hours, or making choices that undermine academic success.

For nearly 20 years, the Student PIRGs have led the way in exposing publishers’ practices that rip off students, championing cost-saving textbook options like used books and rental programs, and advocating for open textbooks as a long-term solution.

We can save students a ton of money, and put the heat on publishers to make textbooks affordable.

In the Legislature

  • In 2008, Congress passes the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which banned some of publisher’s worst practices to rip students off.
  • In 2011 and 2012, respectively, Washington and California enact laws to create statewide open textbook and open educational resource programs.
  • In 2013, Senators Durbin and Franken, with Congressmen Miller and Hinojosa, introduce companion bills to create a federal open textbook grant program.
  • In 2018, Congress includes $5 million in the federal budget for online education resources.

On Campus

  • More than 3,000 professors have signed a statement in support of open textbook adoption.
  • Dozens of universities like the University of Maryland (College Park), University of Minnesota and UMass Amherst have launched their own campus programs to encourage open textbook use.
  • The Student PIRGs have published 20 research reports documenting the problems and harms with traditional textbooks and why open textbooks are the solution.

We need to continue to generate interest in increased federal funding of open textbook projects, while demonstrating student need and faculty support for new or more robust funding of open textbook programs on individual campuses. We’re also running a massive educational campaign to convince faculty to transition to open textbooks, and to put them on alert for shady publisher practices and products.

Take Action:

Faculty Member? Sign the Open Textbook Statement of Support.

Learn More:

Research: Browse and Download Our Research Reports

Coalition: Visit the Open Textbooks Alliance

Resources: View our Open Textbooks Guide and Organizing Toolkit

Get Involved:

Are you a student interested in pushing for free textbooks on your campus? check out our organizing materials.