Samantha Le: Expand open access education for college students

Published: 11/1/2021 4:27:54 PM

In the spirit of Halloween, I want to play a game. Imagine that you, the reader, have paid the last of your remaining money to read this article. The goal of this game is to finish reading this in its entirety for your investment back, but here’s the catch: the fee for unlocking each of the following paragraphs is $100.

Suddenly, the game becomes much harder and impossible to win. The most logical decision would be to quit entirely before paying for these paragraphs and to forfeit the game with the only consequence being that you wasted your savings to access this article.

For college students, however, these consequences are much more severe and life-changing. After paying a hefty tuition fee, students today are faced with the challenge of participating in class. With textbook prices rising faster than the tuition itself and separate access codes for each class, college students are struggling to get by each semester successfully.

Many of these resources are required to pass the class or turn in homework that’s worth 20% of the grade, and much of the material from the textbooks are essential for complete comprehension. Failure to access these resources result in poor grades that, in the long run, are detrimental to progressing in a student’s major and can even limit career choices.

Unless we say goodbye to textbooks publishers, of course. Open Education Resources, or OER, are free and accessible educational materials that can be found online. They’re easy to adapt to specific courses, no matter how niche the topic may be, and allow for collaboration between educators all around the world to help improve these resources.

Here at UMass Amherst, OER has saved students over $2.5 million, and by having more professors switch from paid textbooks to open access education, this number can increase immensely. What we must do to win the game, then, is to advocate for larger OER grant funding and convince more professors to adopt OER. The goal is for all students to be able to study without worry, regardless of the major.

College is already expensive, so we must alleviate the financial stresses that plague the student.

Samantha Le


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