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Students save money with free college textbooks, course materials

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Jan 25, 2021

Traditional college textbooks can cost students hundreds of dollars per semester, causing a financial strain or the inability to buy required course materials. Students who show up to the first day of class without what they need are immediately put at a disadvantage and less likely to succeed. College of Lake County (CLC) recognizes this potential burden and has been working with a myriad of strategies to reduce the cost of these materials.  

CLC’s Director of Auxiliary Services Patricia Argoudelis sees first-hand why the task is important and how it helps CLC be a student-ready college. 

“A lot of times our students won’t purchase their textbooks right away because they can’t afford them,” said Argoudelis. “Sometimes students will buy previous editions just to save money. I’ve been in classes before where the professor has to say, ‘if you’re working off of this edition turn to this page, and if you’re working off of this edition turn to this page.’ It’s just very cumbersome.” 

Generic PhotoOne of those strategies cuts the cost of some materials to zero: Open Educational Resources (OER). The beginnings of the OER movement stretch back into the late 1990s but didn’t pick-up steam until 2012 when the first World OER Congress was convened in Paris. The idea is simple, create high-quality materials, such as textbooks, which exist in the public domain or have a copyright license which allows them to be used for free.

Photo: Open Educational Resources can also enable the use of technology in place of traditional textbooks

The effort to introduce these types of materials at CLC began a few years ago, and today approximately 27 percent of all class sections have an OER. Data collected for the fall 2020 session shows a cumulative savings of $365,082.36 for CLC students thanks to these free resources. That’s nearly $31 per student. 

While college faculty, staff and leadership continue to expand OER offerings, they concurrently work other options such as the creation of custom textbooks, purchase of digital textbooks, textbook rentals and textbook buyback. Another tool is expected to be added soon: Inclusive Access (IA). 

With a slight change in CLC policy, IA will allow a fee associated with course materials to be included in the cost of registration. As a result, a student will be able to include the cost of materials into their payment plan, have access to course materials on day one, have the exact same materials as their classmates and the college will be able to purchase the materials in large quantities at a lower price per student thus saving the student money. 

“It serves affordability, access, success and equity. It encompasses several great areas that we are working on for our students,” says Argoudelis. 

Though the policy still needs official approval from CLC’s Board of Trustees, several voiced their support for the initiative at their meeting in December. 

“It’s a really good opportunity to continue to offer savings to our students in textbooks,” said CLC Board of Trustees Chairman William Griffin. 

 “When you talk about efficiency, cost savings, accessibility from the first day of class; those are things that are really important to students,” said CLC Board of Trustees Secretary Richard Anderson. 

The board next meets Tuesday, Jan. 26. 

About College of Lake County: 

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.