Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI) a $275,000 grant to support PALSave, the consortium’s affordable learning initiative.
PALSave combats the rising costs of textbooks by advancing the use of open educational resources (OER). The project supports student success and retention by providing collaborative tools and a framework for OER awareness, education, and engagement. In addition, it enhances the teaching and learning missions of private higher education throughout the state by funding and supporting faculty adoption of open and affordable course materials.
The new funding comes on the heels of a 2019 Lilly Endowment grant of $520,000 in support of PALSave. The $795,000 in total funding is helping to create significant savings for Indiana college students.
In its third year, PALSave has far exceeded its initial goals. Highlights of its successes include:
- $2.1 million total savings now projected from participation levels, which will exceed PALNI’s $1 million goal, and $648,748 cumulative savings to date
- 10,872 students impacted, saving on average $59.67 each
- 98% of students reporting a positive or neutral impact on studies and grades with OER
- 571 faculty reached with educational workshops
- 142 courses transformed to include OER
- 42% of redesigned courses indicating grade improvement
- 434% return on investment with course redesign funds
- $2.36 saved for every program dollar spent
- 100% of PALNI institutions participating in PALSave
“Through the PALSave program, PALNI and its supported institutions are making a genuine impact on student success by reducing debt and implementing the use of free, customizable course materials,” says Amanda Hurford, Scholarly Communications Director for PALNI and PALSave project lead. “We are so grateful to Lilly Endowment for recognizing this effort, and for enabling us to continue enhancing the learning experience and quality of life for college students across the state.”
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS
While only a portion of the overall price tag on a college education, course material costs can be extremely detrimental to student success and retention. According to data from the College Board, the average full-time, on-campus undergraduate at a four-year school was asked to budget $1,240 for books and supplies during the 2020-21 academic year.
Additionally, COVID-19 has raised the barriers students face both financially and technologically to access course materials. Students who lost jobs due to the pandemic or who lacked reliable internet access were hardest hit by course materials costs. Key findings published in 2021 from the Student Public Interest Research Groups and U.S. PIRG Education Fund show that:
- Students continue to skip buying assigned textbooks despite concerns it will impact their grade.
- More students are neglecting to purchase access codes for remote learning, possibly driven by financial strain. Forgoing an access code means students miss out on homework, quizzes, and other important parts of their grade in a class.
- Lack of reliable internet correlates with significant issues for course material access and student success.
- Students who faced food insecurity were impacted by unaffordable course materials at a much higher rate—82% of students who reported missing a meal due to the pandemic also reported skipping buying textbooks due to cost.
PALSave works to provide a proactive solution to these barriers by helping faculty adopt openly licensed and fully customizable OER into their courses. It does so through workshops that give educators the resources they need to transform courses using materials that are entirely free to students, providing textbook creation grants, and offering publishing support.
Initial feedback from students who have used OER via PALSave has been highly positive, with students sharing comments such as:
- “Having the zero-cost textbook allowed my professor to be flexible with the readings, so I truly believe that I had the best readings possible for this class.”
- “Part of the reason I was dreading STEM classes was because of high textbook costs compared to other classes. Having experience in class with actual expensive textbooks, I much prefer this medium.”
- “There have been times when I have simply not bought the book because of cost. There have been times where my grades have suffered from these barriers, so this has made a positive difference in my performance.”
- “It’s easier for me to do the readings anywhere when a lot of the materials are accessible on my laptop and phone.”
“Recent research demonstrates that students provided with open course materials show improved academic outcomes and retention,” adds Hurford. “PALSave develops the expertise, tools and content to be used in the course redesign process while also building a community of champions for affordable learning through PALNI’s twenty-four supported institutions.”
Strong faculty interest throughout PALNI schools has enabled PALSave to meet or exceed its goals earlier in the project timeline than anticipated. The additional funds from Lilly Endowment Inc. will help sustain the program’s long-term success, build upon its impact to students, and accrue significant savings for years to come.
“Participating in PALSave’s course redesign process was a fantastic experience,” says Glené Mynhardt, associate professor of biology at Hanover College. “I learned so much and found many wonderful resources that I hope to use in the future to benefit students. I highly recommend this program to faculty and would love to participate again to help move some of my other courses into the zero-cost space.”
About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family — J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli — through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. More information can be found at www.lillyendowment.org.