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As anyone who has ever been to an institution of higher learning knows, textbooks can be a significant expense. According to a 2013 article in the Atlantic, a study conducted by the American Enterprise Institute reported that the cost of course materials had risen 812 percent between 1978 and that year, faster than health care, home prices, and, naturally, inflation.

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The University Star, the student newspaper for Texas State University, offers a report on a new initiative being developed by a coalition of student governments in Texas institutions of higher learning to alleviate the cost of textbooks by adopting something called Open Educational Resources. The proposal will be presented to the Texas Legislature during the next regular session.

Open Educational Resources are defined as "freely accessible, openly licensed text, media and other digital assets that are utilized for classroom, homework, research and lecture purposes." If a course offers OER materials, the cost for the student would be free as opposed to hundreds of dollars, potentially, for a textbook, supplementary course materials, and even an access code for online materials. OER materials often contain public domain or fair-use content as a way to reduce cost.

The English department at Texas State is already adopting an OER book for an introductory writing course, likely to be adopted for the Fall 2018 semester.

The form of the proposed legislation, which will presumably encourage Texas universities and colleges to adopt OER materials where possible, is described as a work in progress.

The Texas Legislature passed a number of measures encouraging OER materials during the last regular session. SB 810 created a grant program that helped professors at Texas institutions of higher learning transition to OER textbooks. The bill also set up a searchable database that helps students find courses that use such materials. The legislation also doubled the funding for developing OER materials for K-12 schools. SB 1784 also contained reforms to encourage the use of Open Education Resources for Texas schools. Both bills were signed into law by Gov. Abbott.

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