Textbook Affordability and the Cornerstone Core

Thanks to the joint effort of the Cornerstone Core course designers and the George Fox Library, not only is the new Cornerstone Core rooted in Christ and flexible, it is also affordable!

In the fall semester of 2021, between the library ebook purchases of assigned course texts and course designers’ embrace of non-traditional materials (OERs, podcasts, and original content), we brought the average out-of-pocket textbook costs for students in Cornerstone classes to $10 per class.

You can see the many Open Textbooks and library ebooks they chose to use in their classes here.

Recognizing Opportunity To Advance Affordability

Since 2016, The George Fox Library has been doing innovative textbook affordability work which has already saved our students over a million dollars in textbook costs. We have done this using a dual pillar approach of encouraging faculty to use open educational resources instead of traditional textbooks and purchasing library ebooks for as many other assigned textbooks as we can. While previous efforts incentivized faculty champions from a variety of programs, this is our first comprehensive, program-wide effort for traditional undergrads.

When George Fox reworked its general education (GE) package, streamlining the curriculum into a set of 12 brand new courses called the Cornerstone Core, Jenny Bruxvoort, the librarian for first-year experience, recognized it as the perfect opportunity to apply this Textbook Affordability approach to lower textbook costs in the new curriculum. You can see Jenny’s presentation pitching this idea to the faculty who were designing these new classes here.

A Seemingly Small Problem with Startlingly Large Impact

In 2021, textbooks and other course supplies cost students at four-year private universities like George Fox an average of $1,220 per year and these costs have tangible impacts on these students and their success. 

Many students (25%) work extra hours or skip meals (11%) in order to be able to afford their textbooks and most students skip purchasing expensive textbooks when possible (66%) even though they are concerned it will impact their grades (90%). Textbook costs even impact which courses students choose to take to begin with. And while these negative effects impact most students, food-insecure students are especially vulnerable.  

Meeting Student Needs

A major component of the strategic direction of George Fox University is to Be Affordable so that we can make high-quality Christian education accessible to as many people as possible. 

This combined effort on the part of the library and the course designers gave students options. Students did not need to purchase nearly as many textbooks in print if they did not want to or could not afford to. If a student had hypothetically taken each of the 12 Cornerstone classes in Fall of 2021 and had only purchased the books that were not freely available to them, they would have spent on average $122 – about $10 per class.

As you might expect, our data shows students use these books a lot and appreciate the option of the freely available resources. We are continuing to think about how we can further expand these efforts into other parts of the university. 

The library welcomes all faculty to reach out to their librarian to explore affordable resource options for their classes.