Rutgers University is the first university in the state to formally take action against the high cost of textbooks by launching the Open and Affordable Textbook Project (OAT).

The initiative was started by the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) and found support from the Rutgers University Libraries.  The initiative includes a grant program, administered by the library system, that gives incentives to members of the faculty or departments that replace traditional textbooks with a free or low-cost, open alternative.

According to Lily Todorinova, Rutgers Undergraduate Experience Librarian and OAT Project Coordinator, the grant will be $12,000.

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“What we are working on right now is one-year pilot grants. The total grant is $12,000 that would go to 12 faculty members, $1,000 each, just to provide an incentive for them to (do) a project redesigning the course to make it more affordable to the students,” Todorinova said.

 “Essentially what we hope to see is individual faculty members who are aware of these textbook affordability issues and want to do something, (by) proposing a plan by which they can save their future students hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she said.

According to Rutgers Today, the program has the potential to save $500,000 within the first year.

Todorinova hopes the grants will raise awareness throughout the faculty and provide incentive for professors to rework courses to save students money.

Jeanne Ryder is a sophomore majoring in history and political science at Rutgers and is a Student Chapter Leader for NJPIRG. Ryder told TapInto that she has already benefited from OAT and believes it is already helping students.

“I think it is awesome, it has had a personal impact on me. I’ve spent a lot of money on textbooks and the access codes that come with the textbooks,” she said. “This is initiative is going to literally save me thousands of dollars, I’m very thankful for it.”

The sophomore estimates she has spent more than $2,000 in her two years at Rutgers on textbooks and access codes, which are used to access study guides, outlines, etc.

“They’re already using online textbooks and you’re paying all this money,” said Ryder.

She spoke highly of the alternative open-texts, calling them “very convenient” and
a lot easier” to access.

“You don’t have to wait online at the bookstore and obviously you’re not putting all the money in to it, so it is a lot better,” said Ryder.

“It just goes to show how much power as students we really have over this,” she added. “You need a degree in this world and it costs so much money to get one. Watching this initiative grow and actually succeed and save us money; shows that if students organize, petition, if they try and rally, if they come up with alternative ideas, there are ways to work as whole to get around it.

The Rutgers University Libraries will work with NJPIRG and the faculty towards earmarking the 12 grants.

 “This is just the beginning; we think that if we can show that this is saving students money, this can grow into a larger program,” Todorinova said. “Where we could, I hope, we can offer more support for faculty who want to write their own textbooks because we think that’s ultimately where this should go.”