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Cuomo Allocates Resources to Cut Textbook Costs

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has allocated $8 million to cut the high cost of textbooks for students at the state’s public colleges and universities.

The governor is providing the funding to the Open Educational Resources (OER) Initiative, which offers books and other materials that can be downloaded, edited and shared.

New York Gov. Andrew CuomoNew York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

“Higher education is a necessity for a middle-class future, yet the rising costs of educational resources make it difficult for many students,” said Cuomo, who is thought to be mulling a 2020 presidential run. “Through programs like the Excelsior Scholarship, the first-in-the-nation free college tuition program for students at SUNY and CUNY, and the OER initiative, we are providing important financial relief for many of our students and families, helping to make quality higher education accessible for all New Yorkers.”

The OER has replaced textbooks in more than 4,000 course selections, saving more than a combined $12.3 million.

According to state officials, by the end next year, the initiative will have covered 260,000 students for a total savings of more than $28 million.

“Every person should have the opportunity to pursue higher education without the burden of high costs for tuition and resources needed in the classroom,” Lt. Gov Kathy Hochul said in a statement. “We’re committed to making college more affordable for students and their families. This funding will continue to provide financial relief and give students the tools they need to succeed in college and beyond.”

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson praised the educational investment.

“The use of OER throughout SUNY holds the promise of significant financial savings for our students while also empowering our faculty to provide a more individualized student experience with customizable content,” she said. “Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, we continue to make college more accessible and affordable. SUNY is excited about the opportunity this tool represents for students and faculty throughout the state.”

Former New York Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., who now chairs the CUNY Board of Trustees, said that the investment in OER will prove useful for low-income and working-class college students.

“Forty percent of CUNY’s students come from households with annual incomes of less than $20,000.  Spending $1,200 a year on books is simply not an option for them,” said Thompson. “Studies have shown that students choose not to register for courses with high textbook and materials costs and, as a result, may not pursue majors like the sciences that require expensive texts.  The governor’s continued investment in OER provides a critical support to economically disadvantaged students and removes a longstanding barrier to access, equity and excellence in higher education.”

According to state officials, both CUNY and SUNY have worked to develop and implement the OER initiative as an element of the state’s broad efforts to make public higher education in the state more affordable. The two university systems recently launched a joint website, Open.NYS, to assist faculty, librarians and instructional designers in making the switch to cost-free books and materials. Created with funding from the fiscal year 2018 state budget, the site is designed to support Cuomo’s call for greater college affordability, providing a one-stop resource for educators who are switching to open resources that they can customize for their students.

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