Skip to Main Content

Find COVID-19 Information and Resources
COVID-19 Campus & Financial Aid Information

Tennessee Textbook Affordability for Student Success

Stack of books

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) convened the Tennessee Textbook Affordability Task Force in Spring 2020 to increase equity of opportunity by decreasing textbook costs for students through strategic use of technology and partnerships.

Tennessee students enrolled in public institutions spent an average of $1,400 on course materials in the 2018-2019 academic year, and in fall 2019, the average cost of materials for community college students was $119.18 per course.  These costs present barriers as students attempt to succeed in coursework, contributing to decisions not to purchase required materials, to drop and withdraw from courses, and to avoid certain majors altogether. See how course material costs affect college students across Tennessee here.


Campuses across the state have embarked on efforts to lower the cost of materials through the use of Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are education materials that can be freely downloaded, edited, and shared to better serve all students. Research demonstrates that students enrolled in courses where OER are used in lieu of traditional course materials save money and perform just as well, if not better, than control groups enrolled in courses with traditional materials.

Learn below why OER is important, how you can get started with OER today, and how you can help promote and support OER on campus and across the state.

The Council of Chief State School Officers, CC BY 4.0. Music by The Zeppelin by Blue Dot Sessions, CC BY NC 4.0.

How can you get started with OER today?

  • Watch the Introduction to OER webinar presented by the TN Textbook Affordability Task Force 
  • Gather the learning outcomes for your course. Keeping your course outcomes in the forefront will help make it easy to select and align content for your course.
  • Discover OER for your course. High-quality OER are already available for most General Education courses through organizations like OpenStax, Lumen Learning, and the Open Textbook Library.  You can also browse open textbooks, individual lessons, and media through resources gathered in the Creative Commons Directory.
  • Connect with the Tennessee OER Community. Join colleagues in conversation on the THEC Textbook Affordability Listserv.

How can your institution help promote and support OER?

1.    Raise faculty and student awareness of the benefits of OER.

  • Host an annual “Open Education Day” at your school or university, or encourage participation in global Open Education Week events.  Consider hosting a viewing of the Introduction to OER webinar to convene interested faculty and open campus discussions.  See “Watch the Introduction to OER webinar” above. 
  • Provide OER information to learners. Require OER Course designations in course catalogs so learners know prior to registration which course use OER (see examples from CUNY and San Jacinto CC).
  • Identify key performance indicators to showcase improvements when courses / degrees adopt OER (common indicators include improvements in student outcomes, drop and/or withdrawal rates, credits taken per semester, student debt, and time to degree).

2.    Empower your institution to drive an Open Education strategy.

  • Update existing strategy documents to include open educational goals and adopt an institutional OER policy (see the OER Policy Development Tool, the global OER Policy Registry, and North American OER policies and projects for examples).
  • Launch an Open Education Task Force comprising learners, faculty, accessibility experts, deans, bookstore, financial aid, library, instructional designers, eLearning, etc.
  • Facilitate an OER Grant Program that focus on shifting the highest enrolled courses from closed content to OER (see examples at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and Tennessee Board of Regents).

3.    Empower faculty to create, share, and support Open Education.

  • Reward sharing. Adjust promotion and tenure policies to reward the creation, adoption, and maintenance of OER as curricular innovation and service to the academic profession.
  • Make it easy to share OER. Join a global OER repository and/or make the process of sharing clear and simple for your educators. Require institutionally-funded resources to be openly licensed.
  • Ensure educators have the legal rights to share and CC license their work in contracts between the institution and faculty (see policy example from Creative Commons New Zealand).

Library Collection Materials

From physical textbook lending and library reserve programs to course materials comprised of library-licensed collections and subscriptions, faculty across the state are saving students money by aligning their course learning outcomes with thousands of library-housed e-books, videos, and online scholarly journals.

Inclusive Access

Inclusive Access programs add the cost, typically discounted, of renting an etextbook or other digital course materials to a student’s tuition bill so that scholarships and other financial aid may be more readily used to cover costs. Students receive access to Inclusive Access digital materials on the first day of class and throughout the semester unless otherwise contracted with the publishers.   Data is currently being gathered to evaluate the success of these opt-out programs.

Book Loan & Book Grant Programs

For courses using physical textbooks, book loan programs can help students by providing copies of textbooks for free to use throughout the semester. Book grants provide qualified students with funds to help subsidize the purchase of textbooks and course materials.

Task Force

Tennessee public institutions nominated experts and advocates from their campuses to advance course material affordability statewide. Learn more about Task Force outcomes and next steps here.

Taskforce Members



The Tennessee Textbook Affordability listserv is a discussion list intended for Tennessee higher education faculty and administrators interested in:

  1. Sharing ideas, resources and best practices pertaining to course material affordability,
  2. Distributing campus, state, and national events and opportunities related to course material affordability--feel free to use this list to invite colleagues across the state to participate,
  3. Soliciting feedback and guidance on OER and textbook affordability issues from colleagues at neighboring institutions.

To ensure relevance and manage listserv traffic, please follow the guidelines below:

  • Posts to the list should fall within one or more of the three categories above.
  • When starting a new post, choose a clear and concise subject line that describes the topic.
  • When replying to posts, please only respond to the group if the response is relevant to the group. Otherwise, respond to the sender.
  • Generally speaking, posts should deal with one topic at a time.
  • If you are seeking some sort of general information, like recommendations or how-tos, volunteer to gather all the responses, recommend that others contact you directly, and then summarize the responses for the list. This will help keep list traffic more manageable.
  • Include an email signature with your first and last name so that others know who you are.

THEC administers  this listserv; to be added or removed, email