GHC named No. 6 in country for saving students money on textbooks

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Georgia Highlands College has been recognized as one of the top schools in the country for saving its students money on textbooks.

Rice University-based publisher OpenStax ranked the college at No. 6 on its list of Top 10 schools that have served the most students by adopting free college textbooks during the 2017-18 academic year.

GHC was one of two Georgia colleges to make the list, with the University of Georgia coming in at No. 2.

“These schools are driving access for all students by supporting the open educational resource movement,” Daniel Williamson, managing director at OpenStax, said in a press release. “Thanks to their leadership and supportive campus communities, millions of students now have one less obstacle on their educational journey.”

Georgia Highlands saved 31,414 students an estimated $2,869,610 last year, according to OpenStax, and has eliminated more than $6 million in textbook costs during the last three years by using free open educational resources.

"It is an honor to be recognized as one of the top colleges in the country by Rice University-based publisher OpenStax for GHC’s adoption of free college textbooks,” Vice President for Academic Affairs Dana Nichols said. “GHC’s faculty have been working [since fall 2015] to expand courses offering open educational resources, called OERs, and of the roughly $4 million in savings publicized by the University System of Georgia during the first year OERs were introduced, GHC accounted for over half of that savings.”

“GHC’s strong partnership with the University System of Georgia to increase savings to college students has expanded and strengthened GHC’s mission of producing more career-ready graduates with little to no debt upon completion,” President Dr. Don Green said in a press release. “Joint efforts like this are great examples of how GHC can continuously increase student success in the classroom, through graduation and into a career with the greatest possible return on investment.”  

Over the past three years, GHC has saved students roughly $2.2 million, $2.4 million and $2.6 million, respectively, though OpenStax estimated the third-year savings a bit higher at $2.9 million.

GHC spokesman Nick Godfrey said he didn’t know how OpenStax figured its estimates, but the college based its total savings on the cost of a new textbook multiplied by the total number of non-dual-enrollment students enrolled in courses offering OERs.

Textbooks are already included in the dual-enrollment program and are provided to dual-enrollment students at no cost, he added.

Aaron Green, a junior who finished his associate degree last semester and is taking a few more classes before attending Kennesaw State University in the fall, said he “absolutely” loves the free textbooks that GHC makes available to students.

“It truly helps lower the stress level that comes with each new semester and allows you to put more money towards your degree in the long run,” he said. “Personally, I would say I have probably saved close to $1,300 in total, roughly saving about $250 a semester and slightly less than that in the summer.”

Nichols said the OER course conversion initiative – which gives students access to free video resources, software, labs and hyperlinks to other resources as well as textbooks – has been funded and supported by the USG’s Affordable Learning Georgia Textbook Transformation Grants.

“Replacing just one or two expensive textbooks with open educational resources can make an immediate impact for a student,” she said. “And when combined with innovative classroom methods, the results are impressive.”

GHC currently has more than 40 courses offering OERs, “with many more on the way" in as many different areas and classes as possible, she added.

Green, 20, has taken a number of courses that have offered students OERs as an alternative to expensive textbooks.

“The classes that have free textbooks are endless,” he said. “Criminal justice and government classes, psychology classes, history classes and even math classes have resources where the book is online and free.”

The Cartersville resident knows he’s not the only one who appreciates the savings he gets from the free resources. 

“I worked in the bookstore at GHC for about two years so I know how much books can cost and how happy students would be when I would tell them the class had a free book online,” he said. “I also know GHC is adding more free textbooks and helping students continue to save more.”

Antonio Manuel Hernandez, a dual-enrolled high school senior who’s majoring in general chemistry, thinks it’s important for colleges to offer OERs to their students.

“I feel free textbooks are the best solution for rising costs of classes by saving the average student hundreds to thousands of dollars,” said the 18-year-old, who has used OERs in statistics, American history, government and chemistry so far.

Green, who calls himself a “big fan of online textbooks,” said he had no trouble getting used to having his books on a computer screen rather than in his hands. 

“For me, I found it easy to adapt to online textbooks,” he said. “I do most of my work on my laptop and find myself comfortable with technology. I also prefer carrying my 3-pound laptop over multiple heavy books.”

He also said there “really aren’t any drawbacks” with OERs.

“You can even highlight your online text so you can remember important information, and you can mark pages so it remembers where you left off, including the ability to access your homework or readings from almost anywhere with Wi-Fi,” he said. “I wouldn’t ever go back to carrying around a book.”

Hernandez said it also was easy for him to switch from heavy textbooks to online ones, but he occasionally encounters a problem with them.

“I adapted well due to the ability to print out the chapters I required,” the Cartersville resident said. “I enjoy the instant access and lack of backpack weight, but the need for Wi-Fi is sometimes an issue.”

OERs are accessible to anyone at any time, and textbooks can be downloaded to any smart device, phone or tablet.

To view, visit affordablelearninggeorgia.org.