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Lamar State promoting free, flexible textbooks

Lamar State College Port Arthur selected by Rice University’s OpenStax to provide free textbook use.

The cost of a degree or certificate at Lamar State College Port Arthur will soon get much, much less expensive.

Port Arthur’s college is one of 12 schools chosen by Rice University to participate in the 2020-2021 OpenStax Institutional Partnership Network. As a participant in the network’s first-year program, LSCPA will work actively to build and execute a strategy that will encourage greater use of free, flexible textbooks among its faculty and students.

What that means, in short, is that students and faculty will enjoy the free use of textbooks starting with the Fall 2021 semester.

“Free is never bad, right?” quipped LSCPA President Dr. Betty Reynard. “Thanks to an injection of funds in the fall of 2019 by the Texas Legislature, the cost of tuition dropped by nearly 30 percent at Lamar State College Port Arthur. The partnership with OpenStax will add even more savings for students as they pursue a degree or certificate here at LSCPA.”

LSCPA was chosen by Rice University to participate in this strategic partnership with OpenStax by demonstrating an eagerness to drive adoption of open educational resources (OER). Free to access and fully modifiable, OER provides students and educators with fair and flexible teaching and learning materials.

More than a dozen faculty members at Lamar State College Port Arthur have eagerly volunteered to participate in the program. Once the conversion process is completed with a target start date of Fall 2021, a student would be able to complete nearly the entire core curriculum, needing only to purchase one book that costs about $100.

Ultimately, even that one remaining course is being targeted to be converted to the OpenStax partnership, meaning the entire core curriculum textbook requirement would cost nothing.

“We look for every opportunity to help our students succeed and that includes assisting them financially,” said Dr. Pamela Millsap, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Lamar State College Port Arthur.

“The cost of textbooks is a substantial part of the cost of going to college. Working with OpenStax will allow more people to afford a degree or certificate. Perhaps even more important, it will help students reach their educational goals with fewer or no student loans being incurred.”

Participants in the OpenStax Institutional Partner Network’s first-year program will receive individualized consulting from OpenStax and join a cohort of colleges and universities advocating widespread use of OER at their schools. On average, the institutions who join the network increase the number of students impacted by OER by 158 percent after completing the first year. To date, the program has resulted in over 20 million dollars of additional student savings from OER.

Open educational resources, including the free, openly licensed textbooks offered by OpenStax, eliminate cost barriers for students and allow unrestricted, immediate access to learning materials, increasing the likelihood for students to complete their courses successfully. In addition to the immediate benefits to students, open educational resources are offered under a Creative Commons license, allowing instructors to modify textbooks to better serve their unique teaching and evolving student needs.

OpenStax is committed to improving access to quality learning materials. An initiative of Rice University and supported by philanthropic foundations, OpenStax provides free, high quality, peer-reviewed textbooks and affordable educational technology designed to improve learning outcomes. For more information, visit OpenStax.org.

— By Gerry L. Dickert, Special to The News