Course Marking Drivers
Oregon’s HB 2871 passed in 2015. The bill includes a requirement that each public college and university designate no-cost and low-cost courses in the schedule.
Oregon’s 24 colleges and universities are not in a system. This means that each institution develops their own implementation based on considerations such as available staff time, existing procedures to enter course information in the online schedule, and which student information system is in use.
Likewise, there is not a statewide definition for “low-cost.” For most institutions the low-cost threshold is $40, but at some schools the threshold is higher or lower. There also is not a single statewide policy on what is included or not included when calculating cost. A recommended starting point for making decisions is the Material Costs in the Schedule FAQ, created by the OER Steering Committee at Portland Community College.
Three exemplary implementations at Portland Community College, Mt Hood Community College, and Treasure Valley Community College are described in the archived webinar OER Designations in the Schedule: System Considerations.
Challenges and Lessons Learned
Aggregated data from the 2017-19 biennium show that with 19 out of 24 institutions reporting, courses with the no-cost and low-cost designation in the schedule are estimated to have saved over 375,000 students (by headcount) in 21,000 course sections approximately $34 million in two academic years. At the reporting institutions, approximately 12% of all courses were designated no-cost or low-cost. Because of differences in implementation and reporting methods, this number may more accurately be thought of as cost avoidance rather than actual student savings.
More information on each college and university reporting savings data using the method that works best for their own local campus environment can be found in the post Support for a Local Approach to Statewide OER Data Collection. More information on the statewide estimated student savings can be found in the post Estimated 2017-19 Student Savings in No-Cost/Low-Cost Courses.
One year after the pilot phase of the schedule designation ended, University of Oregon students evaluated the statewide implementation for their Master of Public Administration Capstone. They found that few students were aware of their college or university’s efforts to designate no-cost/low-cost courses in the schedule. It is hoped that the 2019 legislation requiring each college and university to develop a textbook affordability plan that includes marketing the schedule designation to students will address this issue.
The capstone study also identified the timing of faculty course materials adoption reporting as a potential snag in the system. Students need course material cost information to be available when registration opens if the no-cost/low-cost schedule designation is to provide meaningful information that students can use to inform course selection. Oregon has convened a work group to examine this issue during the 2019 short legislative session. Full findings and recommendations from the UO capstone study are available via Evaluating Oregon’s Open Educational Resources Designation Requirement.