How much are Georgia college students saving on textbooks?

Efforts to cut college costs are paying off for Georgia students.

Students in Georgia’s public University System saved the most money of any school or school system on textbooks last year through an open publishing program known as OpenStax, a Rice University-based publisher.

The savings information released this week by Rice shows that the almost 36,000 University System of Georgia students participating in the textbook program saved more than $3.5 million during the 2015-2016 school year.

OpenStax uses grants from nonprofit groups such as the Gates Foundation to publish textbooks in about 20 subject areas including biology, economics, and algebra that are popular on college campuses. The books are free for students online, and hard copies can be purchased at a much lower cost than traditional books.

A report earlier this year from Student Public Interest Research Groups found that the price of college textbooks has increased by 73 percent, or more than four times the rate of inflation, over the past decade. And, individual textbooks often cost over $200, sometimes as high as $400. The College Board estimates students will spend about $1,200 a year on college textbooks and supplies.

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More than 2,000 college systems and schools have adopted OpenStax textbooks, which are used by about 686,300 students across the country. Since 2012, OpenStax has saved college students more than $68 million, including $42 million in savings last year.

Georgia has strong leadership support for open education, said Daniel Williamson, OpenStax’s managing director, in a press release. “They are focused on improving student access to high-quality learning resources and ensuring that their students have the tools to succeed in class.”

OpenStax is part of the University System’s “Affordable Learning Georgia” initiative to cut college costs by providing affordable textbook alternatives and open-source materials. The initiative aims to eventually save students $66 million through OpenStax and $100 million each year through combined open-source programs.

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