FEBRUARY 20, 2009

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TCC Developing Textbook Alternatives for Students


Tulsa Community College students benefit from searching, swapping, buying and selling textbooks through an electronic store.

The cost of tuition is not the only cost on the rise in higher education. Textbooks are costing students more than ever before with prices rising at twice the annual rate of inflation according to The Government Accountability Office. The GAO also found that the cost of textbooks is on average 26 percent of the tuition and fees for a full-time student attending a four-year public institution and 72 percent for a full-time student attending a two-year public institution. Now students are looking for ways around buying pricey textbooks.

“Even if they can get by without a text, they aren’t getting the most out of their education. They’re just getting by,” said Mary Cantrell of her students. Cantrell, a Tulsa Community College English professor, has seen many changes in the way textbooks prices affect students during her 19 years at TCC.

Sharing TCC’s concern for textbook costs, Cantrell and other TCC faculty members formed an Alternative Course Materials Task Force at the invitation of President Tom McKeon in February 2008 to research and develop alternative course material options for students. These efforts are supported by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education which awarded TCC a $142,250 grant for research and implementation of these efforts.

“We want to assure that higher education at TCC is accessible and affordable for our students,” says Dr. McKeon. “The research we are doing in alternative and low cost course materials will help accomplish that.”

In addition to encouraging faculty to collaborate on cost effective materials, TCC is making textbooks for classes with the highest enrollment available on reserve in each campus library.

The grant will also allow TCC to develop and maintain a free electronic textbook trading system called Text2Trade for students. This system will allow TCC students to search, swap, buy or sell textbooks through an electronic store. Initial findings in focus groups show a positive response from students and parents. The Web site also will be shared with other state colleges. An implementation timeline is currently being developed.

TCC’s Alternative Course Materials Task Force presented an overview of their research on textbook alternative options and materials they have developed to the TCC faculty in January.

TCC has also been asked to share their findings with other higher education institutions throughout the nation. TCC’s task force will present their research to 15 other community colleges at the Strategic Horizons Colloquium, part of the Center for Community College Development, at the end of February in Tempe, Ariz. and at a collaborative faculty workshop in October in Detroit.