Rice University-based publisher OpenStax College today announced $9.5 million in philanthropic grants from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), Rice alumni John and Ann Doerr and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to add 10 titles to its catalog of free, high-quality textbooks for the nation's most-attended college courses by 2017.
OpenStax College uses philanthropic gifts to produce high-quality, peer-reviewed textbooks that are free online and low-cost in print. Its first seven books have already saved students more than $13 million. The books have been downloaded more than 650,000 times and have been adopted for use in nearly 900 courses at community colleges, four-year colleges, universities and high schools. OpenStax College has four titles in production for next year and plans to expand its library to 21 titles by 2017. The additional funding will allow the nonprofit publisher to develop textbooks for additional high-enrollment courses, including several science and mathematics courses.
"Our books are opening access to higher education for students who couldn't otherwise afford it," said Rice Professor Richard Baraniuk, founder and director of OpenStax College. "We've already saved students millions of dollars, and thanks to the generosity of our philanthropic partners, we hope to save students more than $500 million by 2020."
The new gifts mark the latest chapter from three longtime supporters of Rice's open educational resources (OER) efforts.
"Rice takes pride in being a leader in using technology in new ways to broaden access to education," Rice University President David Leebron said. "We're very grateful to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, John and Ann Doerr and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for enabling OpenStax College to provide a library of more than 20 free high-quality titles to college and university students and faculty around the world."
LJAF's $6 million grant brings its total contribution to OpenStax to more than $18 million. The $3 million grant from Rice engineering school alumni John and Ann Doerr continues more than a decade of their support for Rice's educational efforts. The Hewlett Foundation's $500,000 contribution–its 14th OER grant to Rice in 12 years–brings its total support for Rice OER to nearly $11 million.
"OpenStax College is expanding its reach, giving more students an opportunity to access free textbooks for the most popular college courses," said LJAF Director of Venture Development Kelli Rhee. "This is critically important, as no one should have to forgo learning or struggle to make ends meet due to the high cost of traditional textbooks. We are pleased to support OpenStax in its efforts to help make college more affordable for students across the U.S."
Ann Doerr said, "We are honored to support the important work of OpenStax. Our nation's future depends upon students achieving at the highest level, and one way to unleash a student's potential is to ensure access to affordable, high-quality textbooks and learning materials." Hewlett Foundation Program Officer TJ Bliss said, "We're pleased that the Hewlett Foundation's support will allow OpenStax College to expand the size of its catalog and bring the benefits of open educational resources to students across the country and around the world."
OpenStax's other philanthropic supporters include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the 20 Million Minds Foundation, the Maxfield Foundation, the Calvin K. Kazanjian Foundation and the Leon Lowenstein Foundation.
Earlier this month, OpenStax announced its first project for K-12 education, a $9 million effort to develop free, digital textbooks capable of delivering personalized lessons to high school students.
For more information, visit http://openstaxcollege.org.