The student news site of Pierce College in Lakewood, Washington.

Student Government hosts Q & A

State Representatives discuss textbooks, open education resources

June 17, 2017

On May 18 local state reps came to sit on a Q & A panel moderated by Terrell Engmann, Leg. Senator, and Zoe Sundberg, Student President.

Beginning Jan. 2018, students in Washington can view required textbooks and course materials during class registration. Local state legislation recently passed a law requiring community and technical colleges to indicate required materials in the online registration process.

            Melanie Stambaugh, R-Puyallup, said she met with the student liaison at Pierce College, Puyallup, who asked her if it was possible to include the cost of textbooks with registration. Seeking a solution in the rising cost of materials that students encounter, Stambaugh then brought the idea to fellow Rep. Luanne Van Werven, R-Lynden, who sponsored the bill and brought it forward for a vote.

“I’m proud to say that the idea from a student at Pierce just became the law this past session” said Stambaugh.

House Bill 1375, passed on Feb. 14, 2017, will help students better budget their education and decrease the likeliness of students dropping out of college due to unexpected costs.

            Currently, students can navigate their way through a syllabus and locate a textbook or ISBN number and purchase materials ahead of time through a third party.

Others are not so lucky. As class materials can vary in cost from zero to more than $200, students who are unfamiliar with the registration process might end up with sticker shock when it comes the campus bookstore. As a result, students may end up dropping classes.

            As the new bill is implemented, students should expect to see links to the school’s bookstore website or other websites to price out the materials prior to registration. If open education resources are available, those will be indicated as well.

Classes that do not have an assigned instructor will not have a textbook noted during registration. However, once an instructor is assigned to the course, the required course materials must be updated promptly. The bill is meant to incentivize professors to utilize less expensive materials.

Engmann reminded the legislators how textbook costs have increased drastically over time, affecting students negatively.

“Students now feel a need to advocate for themselves to find alternatives that can serve as less of a burden,” he said.

Online resources have shown to be cheaper and more accessible but the adoption of these resources into curriculum seems to be a common point of confusion,” he said. 

Engmann, Sundberg, and vice president Jacob Smith, participated in this year’s Legislative Voice Academy where they brought forth a remedy to the solution.

“We came up with idea of employing a position at each institution that specializes in connecting students and faculty with open resources,” Engmann said.

Engmann addressed the panel in its stance on open education resources and awareness of current efforts in Olympia surrounding this issue?”

Stambaugh, a prime sponsor of Open Education Resource Legislation for the past three years said she is a fierce advocate of expanding open education resources. She said she has been communicating with Pierce College and other two- and four-year institutions to learn of their current open education resource options, how they are being implemented and where they can expand.

“The first two years, the model that I used was based off the University of Massachusetts Amherst that funded faculty grants for them to develop open education resource,” she said about the bill she sponsored.

The success was by doing a 10k investment over one year (4 quarters), of students utilizing those open education resource materials; they saved $70k dollars for students. That is a huge return on investment and that is the value that OER investment could have for students.”

As Stambaugh praised open resources, she said there were challenges during the model. “Let’s say one faculty member develops a math curriculum that isn’t necessarily expanded upon. Other faculty members don’t maybe understand the benefit of learning how to create their open education resources for a different class or different subject area.”

However, she said there is a benefit of having a campus liaison with and an institutional knowledge that faculty members can go to when they are trying to develop open resources.

“More legislators are gaining an understanding of the value. We could potentially make it work this year, if not maybe next year, when we have a supplemental budget,” Stambaugh said.

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