Kansas-based Barton Community College announced it is moving away from pricey physical textbooks and is instead embracing low-cost, open-source course materials.

The move is part of the school’s Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative launched in 2018. The goal of the initiative is to offer a full degree using the OER framework. Barton Community College said that goal will become a reality this fall with the availability of the Low-Cost Degree Pathway.

Through this new pathway, the school explained that students can choose online courses developed using OER resources and other low-cost course materials. For the low-cost pathway, each course will use course materials that cost $50 or less, and that are often provided at no cost to the student.

“With the increased cost of higher education, the textbook is the one space where faculty can make an impact in reducing the cost of education,” Barton Director of Innovation and Compliance Lee Miller said. “By becoming mindful of these costs, faculty cannot only affect college affordability but also ensure access to course materials.”

Currently, Barton offers more than 160 OER-certified courses, mainly through Barton Online. With the latest course additions, students will be able to utilize the low-cost pathway to complete an associate of science, arts, or general studies degree. Since these low-cost or no-cost options became available in 2019, Barton estimates that students have saved over $1.2 million in textbook and other course material costs.

“We want to support student success, and that comes by supporting both faculty and students,” Miller said. “Student benefits of affordability and accessibility are only generated by the faculty’s hard work and dedication.”

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