SGA aims to reduce student textbook costs


This semester, the Student Government Association passed a resolution to implement Open Educational Resources (OER’s) at FHSU.

According to Brad DeMers of the SGA, these OER’s are free or reduced-cost textbooks that are peer-reviewed and available online.

“The site that we would possibly use is called OpenStax,” he said.

From there, students can then access textbooks in various subjects.

“Our hope is with implementing those in the Gen Ed level to save costs for students,” said DeMers.

He went on to explain that cost-cutting is the ultimate goal of implementing OER’s. However, this goal extends beyond FHSU.

“We formed a task force in January about this issue because it’s kind of becoming a state issue with just general rising of textbook prices,” he said.

DeMers, who served as the chair of the OER Task Force, explained that in order to understand the need of OER’s at Fort Hays, a survey was sent to students to compile data on how much money they spent on textbooks per semester. Seven-hundred students responded.

“Sixty percent,” he said, “spent $200 or more per semester on textbooks.”

Both his Task Force and the campus OER Committee saw these statistics as a problem. Campus instructors are sympathetic too.

“Professors want to help students and keep prices low[.] There’s just a lack of knowledge that these resources exist,” he said.

As FHSU transitions to using OER’s on campus, it begs the question of how this will change classrooms and what this means for students.

What students need to know is that this will not be a quick change.

“It will take some time to implement these in a classroom because it’s not like your textbook you’re buying now,” DeMers said.

He went on to emphasize that, though these textbooks come at a low cost, they maintain the quality of the textbooks used now.

There has also been discussion within the OER Committee about applying a small fee to the classes that will be using the new resources.

“That fee would be […] say $10. So every class you would take an OER course in, you’d pay the fee but that would cover everything,” he said.

The fee would then be split up: part of it going back to the department, part of it going to the library.

“I think some of the issues professors have with implementing OER’s in the classroom is that they’d have to redesign their course in a way to fit that textbook,” said DeMers, “so that’s why that money incentive would be there.”

The OER Committee and Task Force has another incentive in mind. He explained that this would be to recognize the instructors who have utilized OER’s in their classes.

“[O]ur hope is to recognize them through a money gift or just at an award banquet of some sort to hopefully get the ball rolling on that a little bit,” he said.

As DeMers mentioned previously, though the implementation of these resources is in the works, the change in classrooms will not come quickly. He explained that this is partly due to the time it takes to redevelop course.

However, work on OER’s continues across campus as well as the state. Other universities that are within the Kansas Board of Regents sent the textbook survey to their students as well.

On campus, the Task Force and Committee plan to continue working with departments in preparations for these new resources.

“Next year, what our administration plans to do is to work with the Faculty Senate as well as the actual OER Committee under the Provost to do more workshops, do more departmental visits in a way to show ‘Hey, here’s your math course you’re teaching with this book. Here’s the math book that’s offered for free,’” said DeMers.

Leading up to the OER Resolution passed by the SGA, the student senators worked throughout the semester to research and plan for these new resources.

“Of course with SGA, one of our big things is making sure we’re understanding the issues that are happening at Fort Hays,” he said, “We’re all in agreement that textbook prices are high. We want to keep Fort Hays affordable and ways to do that are with an OER.”

Though students may not see an immediate change, this resolution is the beginning of bringing down the price they must pay for their education.

For now, students can look forward to their staff and student representatives continuing to advocate for affordability and prepare for changes in campus classrooms.

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