The Trinity University Student Government Association has been making quick progress recently in their effort to make textbooks more affordable. Now they’re on the verge of getting their university’s administration to create an open textbook initiative.

After receiving feedback from students about the high cost of textbooks, the Trinity University Student Government Association (SGA) made this problem a priority. They created an ad-hoc committee on Open Educational Resources (OER), comprised of five SGA senators, to raise awareness about open textbooks and look for ways to reduce textbook costs. Their first big event, held in September 2016, was a “How Much Did You Pay?” tabling event (learn how to organize this event here), where students wrote down the amount of money they paid for textbooks that semester on a whiteboard and took a picture for their social media accounts. The event showed that Trinity students were spending anywhere between $300 and $900 on textbooks each semester.

Based on the OER committee’s research, the SGA wrote a proposal for an open textbook initiative. SGA leaders shared the proposal with key administrators to ask for their feedback and support, including the University President, the Vice President for Student Life, and one of the university’s librarians. In addition, the SGA received advice on their proposal from Nick Shockey, a Trinity alum and the Director of Programs and Engagement for SPARC, a leading group in the OER movement.

The SGA then submitted their proposal to the Trinity University Board of Visitors, a group of alumni and business leaders who assist the Office of Alumni Relations and Development and provide campus programs with advice, funding, and other support. After some initial positive feedback, the SGA is now in discussions with the Board of Visitors and the administration to design an open textbook pilot program for the campus. As the first step, Trinity is in the process of joining the Open Textbook Network and will work with OTN to introduce faculty to open textbooks through a workshop in the spring.

Trinity’s story is a great example of how a student government can quickly launch a discussion about open textbooks and build campus-wide support.