The cost of college, whether at the community college or the four-year university level, can cause any student to bear a financial burden.
Faculty and staff members at Pierce College are hoping the math department’s use of open resources — i.e., free or less expensive textbooks — will not only help student retention rates but student success as well.
Math professor Rajeesh Lal is using open resources in two of his classes right now and using the standard textbook from a publisher in another. He sees the same results in students, regardless of where the textbook came from.
One of his open resources he uses was written by a former colleague when he taught at the college’s Steilacoom campus, while another was written by a group of more than a dozen professors from the Puyallup, Steilacoom and Joint Base Lewis-McChord campuses.
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“For our Math 96 class, we got to come up with a replacement textbook,” Lal said. “This one we had ownership of. When you have ownership, it’s easier to adopt because you created it.”
With the average cost of a new textbook at about $125, the price of the paperback open resource text is $20. Now that Lal is using a more affordable textbook in some of his classes, he expects student success to increase.
“If you can’t afford a textbook, how can you expect to succeed in the class?” he said. “If you can lessen the financial burden, it goes a long way in the retention and success of the student.”
Robert Crane, one of Lal’s students, says so far in the first week of classes, using the open resources created by Pierce College faculty has been helpful.
“I usually buy my books used on Amazon, so they’re already less than the bookstore,” said Crane, a part-time student. “But I’m still saving time by buying the open resources at the campus bookstore.”
Much like other professors at Pierce, Lal researched heavily the quality of the open resources versus textbooks from publishers.
“I make the best decision based on if the textbook does what I want it to achieve,” Lal said. “At the end of the day, students get the same results regardless of the textbook.”
Specifically, for the standard math classes required to graduate from Pierce, the open resources give the students real-world examples.
“The driving motivation is to lessen the financial burden but keep the same academic quality,” Lal said.