When it comes to education, there should never be the need for compromises. Yet, the higher the quality of education, the higher the costs. This alone stands to be the reason for so many college drop outs all across the globe. In order to bridge this cost/quality gap, an education reform group named Achieving the Dream from Silver Spring, Maryland, is working to introduce a new system that will genuinely help make education affordable for everyone.
Achieving the Dream aims to change the way degree programmes are being developed in community colleges by utilising open-source materials instead of textbooks; an initiative that could reduce costs for students up to as much as $1,300 per year.
Achieving the Dream has selected a handful of schools in Virginia and Maryland to participate in this initiative. The community college reform group aims bring this change by offering $9.8 million in grants to support the development of open-source degree programmes at 38 colleges in 13 states.
About 50 per cent of the schools already use open-source materials in some classes, while another 20 per cent have degree programmes that primarily or exclusively rely on those materials.
Open educational resources (created using open licenses that let students download or print materials for free) have gained popularity as the price of print textbooks have gone through the ceiling, but courses that use the materials remain a novelty in higher education.
Officials at Achieving the Dream say there are enough open-source materials to replace textbooks in all required courses for degrees in business administration, general education, computer science and social science.
“This effort is designed to accomplish two things that are crucial to completion rates for first-generation, low-income and students of colour: Remove financial roadblocks created by textbook costs…[and] offer a new vehicle for using technology and course materials in dynamic and engaging ways,” Karen Stout, president and chief executive of Achieving the Dream stated to the media.
“The cost of textbooks is the biggest rip-off in higher education,” said Glenn Dubois, chancellor of the Virginia Community College System. “Too many of our students show up, they enrol and start the first week without a textbook, and that puts them behind the eight ball on the college success measure.”
Research suggests the use of free open-access materials can significantly reduce costs and contribute to better grades, higher course completion and faster degree completion.