OER Degree Initiative will cut costs to students while improving degree completion
(Santa Ana, CA)—Santa Ana College (SAC) was awarded a $100,000 grant from Achieving the Dream (ATD) for the Open Educational Resources (OER) Degree Initiative and OER research. SAC will also match the funds received. This money will be awarded over a three-year period. SAC is also eligible for an additional $20,000 as a research partner in this initiative.
“The OER Degree Initiative permits faculty to ‘take back the curriculum’ and assert their academic freedom and domain expertise to choose their own materials,” said Richard Sebastian, ATD OER Degree Initiative director.
In California, SAC is one of two colleges chosen and the only one from Orange County. Colleges were selected through a competitive grant process based on their ability and capacity to implement OER degree programs, offer the full complement of degree courses quickly, or swiftly scale the number of sections offered.
Thanks to this grant, SAC will develop two OER degrees: a business administration degree, the college’s most popular transfer-degree program, and a liberal arts degree, one of the associate degrees with a large number of graduates. To fulfill the requirements of two degree programs utilizing only OER, SAC will develop 19 additional OER courses. SAC currently offers 29 courses utilizing OER rather than high-cost textbooks.
It is estimated that the OER Degree Initiative will serve 13,260 SAC students through 442 OER sections starting in fall 2017. The overall cost savings to students is estimated at $1,047,540 based on an average textbook cost of $79. The program will also develop a library of resources that can be used for future OER courses at SAC or at other institutions.
Carlos Lopez, SAC vice president of academic affairs, said, “Santa Ana College is thrilled about expanding our open educational resources work that first started in 2010. By joining the Achieving the Dream OER Initiative we are creating two degree pathways in business administration and liberal arts that will result in low- or no-cost instructional materials. Removing this cost barrier for students will enable them to have access to the course materials they need on the first day of class across more of our courses. In addition, based on published research the additional OER will improve student outcomes like course completion, degree attainment, and transfer.”
To drive enrollment in OER courses, administrators plan to work with student-led and student-focused organizations to increase student awareness of OER courses. Students will also be able to find OER courses by utilizing the “OER” search filter in the college’s online enrollment system. The system provides detailed information on textbook and material cost for each course section. Students can readily see no-cost or low-cost options available in OER classes. OER course discussion and promotion will also occur in orientations and counseling sessions. And for new faculty, professional development programs will be held by OER advocates.
On an average, the cost of textbooks is $1,300 per year for a full-time college student which amounts to a third of the cost of an associate degree. Of the SAC students that cite that they stopped going to school due to financial hardship, more than 50 percent specifically mention the cost of textbooks as the basis for that decision.
Luis Mejia, SAC Associated Student Government president, is concerned about the impact of textbook costs on students. “The rising cost of textbooks creates a huge hindrance for our students,” said Mejia, “Most of our students are already on a tight budget and the rising cost of textbooks puts them at a disadvantage. If textbooks and materials were fairly priced, student academic performance would rise.”
By utilizing OER, students and professors have access to teaching, learning and research tools that reside in the public domain. These tools are economical because they are copyright-free. OER materials may also be released under an intellectual property license that permits a person’s use and re-purposing.
The $9.8 million in funding for the OER Degree Initiative nationwide comes from a consortium of investors that includes the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, the Shelter Hill Foundation, and the Speedwell Foundation.
Achieving the Dream, Inc., is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college degree or certificate.
For more information about the OER Degree Initiative, click this link.
About Santa Ana College
Santa Ana College (SAC), which turned 100 years old in 2015, serves about 18,000 students each semester at its main campus in Santa Ana. The college prepares students for transfer to four-year institutions, provides invaluable workforce training, and customized training for business and industry. In addition, another 11,000 students are served through the college’s School of Continuing Education located at Centennial Education Center. Ranked as one of the nation’s top two-year colleges awarding associate degrees to Latino and Asian students, the college is also recognized throughout the state for its comprehensive workforce training programs for nurses, firefighters, law enforcement and other medical personnel. SAC is one of two comprehensive colleges under the auspices of the Rancho Santiago Community College District. Visit www.sac.edu to learn more. For information about Santa Ana College’s Centennial, please visit www.sac.edu/100.
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