PSU partners with OpenStax to provide students with $2M worth of free textbooks

Stack of Books

Portland State University announced today it is one of 10 schools nationwide chosen to participate in the 2019-2020 OpenStax Institutional Partnership Program to encourage the use of free, peer-reviewed online textbooks on campus. 

PSU was chosen this summer to partner with OpenStax — a nonprofit ed-tech initiative at Rice University that provides open-licensed online textbooks — after a rigorous application process. 

PSU had to demonstrate a willingness to adopt open educational resources (OER). OER can be any type of educational materials that are free to use, adapt and share. For PSU and OpenStax, OER refers to online textbooks specifically. The average textbook cost, according to OpenStax data, is $79.37.

"Portland State is very proud to be one of 10 institutions included in the OpenStax Institutional Partnership Program that is designed to increase Open Education Resource adoption,” said Susan Jeffords, PSU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “PSU's ambitious goal for the OpenStax Partnership is to increase these savings to $2 million by 2021 because our students have identified reducing textbook costs as a priority for the coming year.”

The partnership with OpenStax is also part of an Open Education initiative, co-led by The Office of Academic Innovation and the Portland State Library, to put students’ learning first through cost-saving strategies, increasing inclusion efforts, and improving academic success. Open educational teaching practices allow for more diverse voices to engage in the learning experience and provide opportunities for faculty to collaborate with students to ensure the learning materials meet their students' needs. 

“We’re excited about the opportunity to work directly with faculty on impacting cost,” said Johannes De Gruyter, executive director of the Office of Academic Innovation, "while being creative with strategies that increase student engagement.”

PSU faculty can get involved by redesigning courses to replace high cost course materials with OER, participating in Open Education learning communities, or authoring open-access textbooks.

Further, colleges will receive individualized consulting from OpenStax and join a cohort of schools advocating widespread use of OER at their schools. On average, colleges who join the open resources initiative as institutional partners increase the number of students impacted by OER by 158% after completing the first year of the program. To date, the program has resulted in $19.6 million dollars of additional student savings from OER nationwide.

“Increasing OER is one of my office's top goals for our Student Success commitments, so this grant couldn't be coming at a better time,” Jeffords said. “I'm excited about the campus-wide OER effort.” 

Open educational resources, including the free, peer-reviewed online textbooks offered by OpenStax, eliminate cost barriers for students and allow unrestricted, immediate access to learning materials, increasing the likelihood for students to complete their courses successfully. 

According to the 2017 Babson Survey, open resources are growing in popularity — almost 50% of faculty reported that they are aware of OER, and OpenStax textbooks are being adopted in introductory courses at rates that rival traditional books. 

PSU isn’t completely new to open-access textbooks. 

Tom Bielavitz, dean of the University Library, the library, for the last five years, has been working to expand student access to free textbooks through its open access textbook publishing program, PDXOpen. Faculty could apply for $2,500 grants to develop their own open-access textbook, but Bielavitz said many books authored through the program are on niche subjects. The OpenStax partnership will help refine and boost access.

“The goal is to expand our reach and make a greater impact,” he said.

Last year, OER offered through the library saved PSU students almost $400,000 in textbook costs, Jeffords said. This year, those savings increased to more than $634,000 with about 8,000 students utilizing the program. 

For more information on Portland State University’s open educational resource initiative, visit