Release: Textbook Broke – Students looking for affordable ways to study

September 14, 2022  |   Found in News

Calgary – Students have returned to classes at the University of Calgary, facing a much less affordable environment than when the pandemic first hit. Students have endured skyrocketing cost pressures well prior to the current inflation crisis.


UCalgary students are paying at least 25% more in tuition than they did in 2019, with no corresponding increase in education quality. Fees for student services, recreation, and athletics have also seen double-digit percentage increases since 2019.


On top of that, simply affording study materials, like textbooks, is increasingly difficulty for students. In a 2021 SU survey, 85% of students identified the cost of textbooks and other required course materials as a source of financial stress and hardship. In 2018, MacLean’s magazine found that Canadian students spend an average of $773 on textbooks each year. This number is likely even higher today.


“Students aren’t just broke, they’re at a breaking point,” says SU VP Academic, Shaziah Jinnah Morsette. “Tuition, fees, books, and rent have all increased at rates well above inflation for the last three years. The current inflation crisis has compounded it even more. We need government and universities to help. One way they can do that is to support, encourage, and fund Open Educational Resources (OER).”


OERs are any type of teaching, learning, and research resource, from textbooks to presentations, that are free and openly available through an open copyright license like Creative Commons to allow for repurposing and sharing of OERs by others. Traditional textbooks and materials come with more restrictive copyright licenses. However, awareness for using OERs as a solution to the costly burden of traditional textbooks is still growing.


The Students’ Union (SU) sees tremendous value for students in OER initiatives. Following years of provincial inaction, in 2021, the SU committed $500,000 to support the development of OERs. This money is creating up to fifty new OERs over five years. While provincial funding in Ontario and British Columbia have led to millions in savings, Alberta lags behind in supporting OERs. Ontario and B.C. students have saved nearly $40 million in costs thanks to government investment in those provinces.


“While the Alberta 2030 initiative mentions OERs, it is unclear what action the province will take to catch up to comparator provinces like Ontario and BC,” says SU VP Academic, Shaziah Jinnah Morsette. “What is clear is that students cannot continue to wait for real action. That’s why we have partnered with our university library on our own OER project to support OER use and development.”


The SU joins calls from students, student associations, and other organizations in asking for institutional and government support for OERs. It is a simple and effective way to help students save money and continue to be able to access a post-secondary education.


Media inquiries may be directed to:

Mike Brown, External Communications Specialist

University of Calgary Students’ Union