UNK program saves students thousands in textbook costs

It's been such a big success it's spreading to the rest of Nebraska's campuses.

KEARNEY, Neb. (KLKN) – With the price of college textbooks so high, it’s no wonder people have been looking for ways to save. One idea that was championed by the University of Nebraska-Kearney has picked up a lot of steam. It’s called Open Educational Resources (OER). In a nutshell, it’s a way to keep prices reasonable.

“Students shouldn’t have to make the decision, ‘Do I eat, do I pay rent, or do I buy the books for my classes?'”, says biology professor Kim Carlson.

Carlson is part of the OER Committee, but it wasn’t until recently that she made the jump for her own class. She’d already been doing other things to keep prices low, but when issues came up with a textbook publisher, Carlson made the changes to become an OER class, meaning materials (with the exception of lab kits) are capped at $40.

“It costs either $35 or $39.” Carlson explains the price “depends upon how many people you actually have enrolled”.

The way Carlson was able to meet the $40 target was by writing her own e-book, with free help from a company that specializes in that process. What was previously a daunting task proved to be pretty easy, and had some bonuses to boot.

“I never used the book in the order it was published in; I always moved around”, Carlson says. “Now everything’s in the right order. Plus, my field, since I’m a geneticist, my field is rapidly changing. I can go in and aI can change topics. I can make it more timely.”

That’s just one success story. Since the fall semester of 2015, OER has saved UNK students more than a half-million dollars, and the savings are spreading.

“We started this in 2015”, recalls Carlson, “and we actually helped bring the other campuses on board, and it’s really turned into this wonderful, large program”.

The future is bright enough that the goal is to save students a total of $10 million across the entire university system.

Carlson says, “I only see things getting better and better as we go forward.”

Categories: Nebraska News, News