Update: New Report on Textbook-Free Degree Programs
June 29, 2017
Textbook-Free Degree Programs Show Promise in New Study
For low-income students paying their way through community college, textbook costs can strain an already tight budget. Community college students can expect to spend an average of $1,300 per year on textbooks—about 1/3 of their total costs.1 Too often students have no choice but to do without textbooks, significantly increasing their chances of falling behind and ultimately dropping out.
To address this issue, we've committed $800,000 to support the evaluation of Achieving the Dream's Open Educational Resources (OER) Degree Initiative—the largest initiative of its kind to develop community college degree programs using open educational resources instead of textbooks. Open educational resources include full courses, textbooks, videos, tests, etc., that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others.
The OER Degree Initiative, which launched last year with support through a number of national funders including Great Lakes, seeks to boost college completion, particularly for underserved students, by engaging faculty as they redesign courses and degree programs by replacing proprietary textbooks with free open educational resources.
We are excited to share preliminary results on this initiative from an evaluation by SRI International, an independent, nonprofit research center with expertise in the community college sector. The evaluation analyzed student data and instructor survey results from fall 2016 and spring 2017 semesters across 38 colleges to study the impact of OER degree programs. They found high levels of faculty interest and engagement in using free digital resources.
We invite you to read the report, which details lessons learned about what it takes to launch an OER degree program, the challenges that arise, how colleges are addressing those challenges, and what sustainable programs might look like in the long run.
The OER Degree Initiative has potential to increase completion rates and decrease costs for students from low-income families. As the project continues, we hope to learn whether OER students are more likely to graduate, graduate with better grades, and graduate faster compared to students on the traditional textbook path.
$200,000 in Apprentice Scholarships Awarded in Ohio
Apprenticeship is a direct pipeline from community college classroom to high-demand career. But many apprentices earn modest wages, and required expenses for their tools, work clothes and equipment can prevent them from completing their programs.
To keep more apprentices with financial need equipped for and enrolled in their programs, Great Lakes expanded its Tools of the Trade $1,000 Apprentice Scholarship opportunity to Ohio this spring. We partnered with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to administer the program, which attracted 434 applications from apprentices across the state. Tools of the Trade $1,000 Apprentice Scholarships were recently awarded to 200 construction and manufacturing apprentices attending seven Ohio community colleges.
We created Tools of the Trade scholarships in 2013 to help Wisconsin apprentices with financial need finish their training and advance to rewarding careers. Since then, 94% of recipients have either completed or continued their training the following semester.
We are optimistic that this success can be replicated. We look forward to learning the impact these scholarships will have for Ohio's hardworking apprentices.
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