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College course materials: Affordability initiatives across Tennessee


September 2021

Authors: Kim Potts and Dana Brimm

Legislative Brief

Although the cost of course materials (e.g., print or digital textbooks, workbooks, audiovisual materials, online homework platforms, and other supplemental materials) is only one component of the cost of a postsecondary education, by the time a student obtains a degree, the total spent on course materials can equal the cost of an additional semester of tuition at some four-year institutions. This report discusses initiatives among the state’s higher education institutions to make college course materials more affordable.

National and state-level surveys provide information about what students pay for course materials, the choices they make in paying for the materials, and how this affects their progress toward completing a degree. Efforts to create more affordable options for students in purchasing course materials are widespread across Tennessee, including through the use of open education resources (OER) and inclusive access programs.

The report includes several policy options for the General Assembly, including amending state law concerning textbook policies and expanding state support for OER development and use.