Pub­lish­ing group of­fers stu­dents free text­books

Pro­gram aims to help col­lege stu­dents save money on ma­te­ri­als.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Rene C. Lee Hous­ton chron­i­cle

The words “free” and “col­lege” aren’t of­ten used in the same sen­tence, but a phil­an­thropic ven­ture at Rice Univer­sity is draw­ing at­ten­tion for bring­ing them to­gether.

OpenS­tax Col­lege, a non­profit pub­lish­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion founded by a Rice pro­fes­sor, of­fers free on­line text­books for the five most-at­tended col­lege cour­ses in the coun­try. They’re mostly in­tro­duc­tory cour­ses that stu­dents must take to move on to up­per-level classes. In some classes, the re­quired text­book can cost as much as $250.

With ris­ing tuition and fees, some stu­dents strug­gle to cover the costs of text­books and sup­plies, which also have in­creased.

Stu­dents will shell out an av­er­age of $1,200 on text­books this school year, up about 3 per­cent from last year, ac­cord­ing to the Col­lege Board, a non­profit that tracks col­leges costs.

“Text­books are so ex­pen­sive, es­pe­cially for com­mu­nity col­lege stu­dents,” said founder and elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor Richard Bara­niuk. “Some drop out be­cause of the cost of learn­ing ma­te­ri­als. We de­cided to do some­thing about it.”

OpenS­tax’s goal is to save 1 mil­lion col­lege stu­dents $95 mil­lion over the next five years.

About 80 in­sti­tu­tions have adopted the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s first two ti­tles — Col­lege Physics and In­tro­duc­tion to So­ci­ol­ogy — since they were pub­lished in June. More than 75,000 users have viewed them, and more than 40,000 have down­loaded PDF ver­sions. Print ver­sions are also avail­able for $30.

The pub­lish­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion is based on Con­nex­ions, a Rice Univer­sity-based open ed­u­ca­tion re­sources plat­form that has more than 1 mil­lion users. The plat­form al­lows peo­ple to pub­lish, mod­ify or use teach­ing and learn­ing ma­te­ri­als that are freely avail­able on­line.

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