Kennesaw State faculty save students $899,860 from student debt load!

By: Dr. Tamara Powell, Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State University faculty are committed to supporting student success. Thirty-six KSU faculty and staff have stepped up, with support from the KSU Library and the state of Georgia, to create and/or adapt 13 sets of open educational resources (OERs) sometimes for use in multiple classes or class sequences. This work has saved $899,860 from the student debt load each year. Each group was awarded an Affordable Learning Georgia Textbook Transformation Grant to support them in their work.

The winners and amount of student savings through OERs are:

Camille Payne and Rachel Myers (Nursing): $30,468
Seneca Vaught and Griselda Thomas (African and African Diaspora Studies): $20,840
John Isenhour, Ophelia Santos, Charles Marvil (Culinary Studies): $13,875
Lake Ritter, Shangrong Deng (Math): $9,180
Guangzhi Zheng and Zhigang Li (Information Technology Department): $16,833
Lu Kang and Zhigang Li (Chemistry): $184,320
Lei Li, Rebecca Rutherford, Svetlana Peltsverger, Jack Zheng, Zhigang Li, Nancy Colyar (Computer Science/IT): $110,419
Ginny Zhan, May Gao, Yumin Ao (Asian Studies): $11,249
Carlton Usher and Linda Lyons (First Year Studies): $67,250
Daniel Farr and Tiffani Reardon (Sociology): $13,963.80
Tamara Powell, Jonathan Arnett, Monique Logan, Cassandra Race, Tiffani Reardon (DWMA/English): $51,615
Sharon Pearcey, Chris Randall, Jen Willard, Beth Kirsner, Adrienne Williamson, Tricia Mahaffey (Psychology): $345,912
Chi Zhang and Bob Brown (Information Technology): $23,936


According to a study performed by the US Government Accountability Office, the annual average amount students spend on textbooks is 26 percent of the cost of tuition at a public, four year university. According to a June 2013 report from Lumina Foundation, about “30 percent of college students” don’t buy the books for their courses. Why don’t they buy the textbooks? Sixty-five percent of students choose not to buy a college textbook because it’s too expensive.

As faculty, we know it is hard to teach students who come to class unprepared, and 94 percent of the students who report not buying the textbook say that they know they suffer academically because they do not have the text. Forty-eight percent say they make decisions about which classes to take, and how many classes to take, based on textbook costs. That is, textbook costs not only increase debt load directly but also indirectly as students take fewer courses when faced with high textbook prices. Eighty-two percent of students say they would be more successful academically if they had a free online textbook and if a hard copy were optional.

Research backs up this idea. A recent study in Journal of Computing in Higher Education of nearly 5,000 college students using OERs and over 11,000 college students using commercial textbooks in ten US institutions yields striking results. Overall, the researchers found that “In three key measures of student success—course completion, final grade of C-or higher, course grade—students whose faculty chose OERs generally performed as well or better than students who faculty assigned commercial textbooks” (Fischer, Hilton, Robinson, Wiley) OERs increased course completion. Students in courses using OERs did take more courses. And students reported being more satisfied in courses where OERs were used.

Want to learn more about how you can transform your textbooks into an OER? You can check out a recording of this month’s Innovator in Online Learning webinar presented by Dr. Tamara Powell: Textbook Transformation: Save Students $55K using OERs



  1. Bernice Jackson


    I’m a Computer Science / Information Technology instructor at two colleges and couldn’t agree more about the impact on student grades when they don’t buy the textbook. Your article really got my attention and I want to know more. Unfortunately when I clicked on the link for the webinar I found it had already ended.

    Did you record the webinar? If so, is there a link to the recording?

    Bernice Jackson

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