Promoting accessible, equitable educational resources is a pillar of social justice advocacy. With the total student loan debt acquired in the United States amounting to $1.5 trillion dollars (Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 2019), finding ways to alleviate this increasing cost and instead prioritize student success is essential.
Textbook costs and financial aid
According to Student Public Interest Research Groups' 2016 nationwide survey of nearly 5,000 students: (Student PIRGs, 2016)
Impact on Student Success
(Florida Virtual Campus. 2016. 2016 Student Textbook and Course Materials Survey.)
Impact on Retention
Students who are from historically underserved backgrounds, part-time, first generation, financial aid recipients often feel the burden of textbook costs more acutely.
A study at California State University Channel Islands found that Latinx, first generation, and financial aid dependent student felt higher stress from textbook costs than their white, non-first generation, and non-financial aid dependent counterparts (Textbook Affordability and Student Success for Historically Underserved Populations at CSUCI):
Textbook costs result in increased stress for all groups surveyed, but it is clear that historically underserved students feel the effects of this cost more.
VCU's diverse student population includes a large portion who are a part of those groups which are disproportionately impacted by high textbook costs.
Of the more than 24,000 undergraduates at VCU in 2019-2020:
Demographics (VCU Facts and Rankings)
Financial Burden of College
|Net price for low-income students (price after subtracting grants and scholarships).||Minimum Wage||# of hours per week at minimum wage needed to pay net price (assuming 50 wks/yr).||
Income earned from working 10 hrs a week at state's minimum wage.
|Affordability Gap (net price minus income earned working 10hrs at minimum wage)|
Financial background (SHEV Financial Aid Research)
For students who entered in Fall of 2012 (the last available year of data):
From Fall 2007-Fall 2017 (as available), retention rates have hovered around
With VCU’s diversity, Open and Affordable Course Content can increase the possibility of success for all our students, no matter their background.
Student Success Impact:
Success for historically underserved populations (The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics)
With the cost of textbooks impacting student success, from which courses students choose to how well they do in those courses, open textbooks can serve as an effective intervention, ensuring all students have access to the materials they need to be successful in their chosen academic path.