The University System of Georgia (USG) is saving students more than $18 million a year with its free online textbook initiative called Affordable Learning Georgia.

More than 219,300 students from across the system have benefited directly from the free textbook program. To date, Affordable Learning Georgia has saved students more than $31 million on textbook costs, and the initiative is expected to grow in coming years as highlighted in the USG’s presentation to the Georgia House of Representatives Higher Education Subcommittee of Appropriations on Feb. 14.

The success of Affordable Learning Georgia is due to USG faculty and administrators working together to:

  • Make use of USG grants to provide free textbooks, which are formally called Open Education Resources (OER) and often referred to as “eTextbooks.”
  • Redesign courses to take advantage of free and low-cost materials in place of costly textbooks.
  • Use OER in all USG eCore online courses and continue to expand the use of free eTextbooks in the classroom.

“Cost can be a major obstacle for students in college, especially with the expense of textbooks,” said House Appropriations Chairman Terry England. “I appreciate the University System for doing everything it can to save students money.”

“With the generous support of the governor and legislature, we continue to focus on college affordability, which includes addressing the rising costs of college textbooks,” said Chancellor Steve Wrigley. “Affordable Learning Georgia uses technology and innovation to reduce textbook costs for students, and we are excited about the success and momentum of this program designed to help keep public higher education affordable for Georgia’s students.”

Affordable Learning Georgia’s savings for students has grown rapidly. Just two years ago, the University System was ranked number one in the nation by national publisher OpenStax at Rice University for saving students the most money with free textbooks worth more than $3.5 million in 2016.

Textbooks and course materials average $1,250 per student per year, which is an approximate four-year cost of more than $5,000 for students.

“The Universit y System of Georgia identified rising textbook costs as a priority issue to address,” said Lucy Harrison, assistant vice chancellor for USG Academic Library Services. “Thanks to faculty support and an extremely engaged community of educators, we have partnered together to use free, high-quality open educational resources to save students money as they pursue their college degrees.”

Due to the higher costs of textbooks, replacing one or two with open educational resources can make an immediate impact to saving students money. For example:

  • Georgia Highlands College:
    • 720 students per year in a specific course; previous book and lab manual cost $361.
    • Savings to students: $260,000 annually.
  • Georgia State University:
    • 5,688 students per year in a specific course; previous two books cost $184.63.
    • Savings to students: over $1,000,000 annually.

“Thanks to the dedication of University System of Georgia faculty and administrators, we expect to continue to expand the use of free textbooks and increase the savings for students,” Harrison said.

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