Estimated 2017-19 Student Savings in No-Cost/Low-Cost Courses

By | July 10, 2019

This post reports on the statewide estimated student savings represented by Oregon’s no-cost/low-cost course designation for the 2017-19 biennium. Each college and university reports savings data using the method that works best for their own local campus environment. This means that the people who created the data make the case for how they use it. Each institution shows their work by sharing their method so that the aggregated estimate can be understood as a sum of differentiated components. More information on this approach to OER savings estimates can be found in the post Support for a Local Approach to Statewide OER Data Collection.

Statewide Savings Estimate

Out of Oregon’s 24 public colleges and universities, 19 were able to provide data for this report: 15 colleges and 4 universities. Two colleges and three universities did not participate, either because they have not yet implemented the no-cost/low-cost schedule designation, or because the data was not available in time.

Student enrollment is represented by 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount data provided by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission Office of Research and Data. Fall, fourth week enrollment is the data that is provided by both colleges and universities; using headcount rather than full-time equivalent shows how many individual students may see impact from no-cost/low-cost courses.

  • 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for the participating institutions: 188,713
  • 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for all Oregon colleges and universities: 215,652

In round numbers, 4/5 of Oregon’s colleges and universities shared data for this report, representing nearly 90% of students in the state. The courses with the no-cost and low-cost designation in the schedule at these institutions are estimated to have saved over 375,000 students (by headcount) in 21,000 course sections approximately $34 million in two academic years. At the reporting institutions, approximately 12% of all courses were designated no-cost or low-cost.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 542 7,683 $693,370 9395 5.77
Fall 2017 2394 49,639 $4,395,484 24912 9.61
Winter 2018 2643 49,330 $4,310,866 24990 10.58
Spring 2018 3487 54,002 $5,391,992 25255 13.81
Summer 2018 1207 16588 1890564.67 14565 8.29
Fall 2018 3252 55730 5396223.22 25216 12.90
Winter 2019 4062 70634 6038350.73 25349 16.02
Spring 2019 3932 70575 5547479.69 26036 15.10
Total 21914 379,348 $34,178,056 178815 12.26

Last spring, a pilot data collection project found that with 1/3 of Oregon’s colleges and universities sharing data, representing about 15% of fall headcount enrollment, courses with the no-cost and low-cost designation in the schedule were estimated to have saved over 30,000 students (by headcount) in 2,000 course sections approximately $3 million in one academic year. I asked:

Does this mean that if all 24 colleges and universities reported, then the estimated savings represented by courses with the no-cost/low-cost designation would be $20M? In my opinion, we don’t have enough information to make this claim.

With more data now available, it is possible to say with more confidence that if all 24 colleges and universities participated, the estimated savings represented by courses with the no-cost/low-cost designation could be as high as $40 million for the biennium, or about $20 million per year. In other words, last year’s pilot sample was representative.

Local methods

In the post Estimating student savings from no-cost/low-cost course materials, I discussed approaches to tracking student savings data and shared templates that can be used or modified for this purpose. It is important to collect and share this data because it communicates the effectiveness of the no-cost/low-cost schedule designation and also shows the impact that faculty choices have on students.

The followup post, Estimated 2017-18 Student Savings in No-Cost/Low-Cost Courses, asks the question: What is the estimated student savings represented by the statewide no-cost/low-cost schedule designation mandated by Oregon’s HB 2871? I piloted a method of answering this research question in which each campus estimates student savings using the method that is the best fit for them. The resulting statewide estimate aggregates the data reported irrespective of method; institutional information was included that clarifies which method was used at each participating college or university.

Savings estimates will always be just that – an estimate. In part, this is because student behavior is so varied: some buy used, rent, unbundle, share, sell back, order overseas, pirate, or skip a purchase altogether, and pricing for every option can change from one day to the next. That said, a common theme among reporting institutions is that they would like to have more accurate and timely information from faculty on course materials adoptions. Knowing what is used would enable a clearer picture of expected costs and savings.

Per Institution Breakdown

The statewide savings estimate combines data collected via various methods, reflecting local needs and decision-making at each campus. The sections below show how each reporting institution arrived at their savings numbers.

Blue Mountain Community College

Blue Mountain Community College provided a spreadsheet that aggregates savings for the 2017-18 academic year. Savings estimates are broken out per quarter for the 2018-19 academic year. BMCC used $100 as the savings estimate for no-cost courses, and $75 as the savings estimate for low-cost courses. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Blue Mountain Community College was 2,442.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017-Spring 2018 395 5,167 $513,725 1652 23.91
Summer 2018 27 403 $40,300 83 32.53
Fall 2018 101 1480 $140,530.56 420 24.05
Winter 2019 152 1768 $171,315.00 413 36.80
Spring 2019 101 1143 $130,585 427 23.65
Total 776 9,961 $996,456 2995 25.91

Central Oregon Community College

The Office of Institutional Effectiveness at Central Oregon Community College provided a spreadsheet with 4th week enrollment numbers for courses with low-cost or no-cost materials. COCC used $100 as the savings estimate for no-cost courses, and $60 as the savings estimate for low-cost courses (because their low-cost threshold is $40). The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Central Oregon Community College was 7,254.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Fall 2017 247 3,645 $329,020 908 27.20
Winter 2018 205 3,079 $265,740 844 24.29
Spring 2018 321 4,122 $369,600 838 38.31
Summer 2018 92 977 88780 235 39.15
Fall 2018 290 4153 368580 847 34.24
Winter 2019 221 3080 281360 817 27.05
Spring 2019 312 4396 398480 794 39.29
Total 1688 23,452 $2,101,560 5283 31.95

Clackamas Community College

We started by looking at LCT (no-cost and low-cost) designated sections within each term since we implemented the LCT effort. For each course we pulled the lowest cost option for all the LCT designated sections in the term and then calculated the average lowest cost option for all the LCT sections of each course in that term. We then looked back to the most recent pre-LCT term and calculated the same average lowest cost per course at that time. We averaged per course in part to aid in comparison, as we can’t always directly compare sections.

To calculate the savings we subtracted the cost during an LCT term from the cost in the pre-LCT term and multiplied that difference times the number of enrolled students in the LCT term.

The average savings per student comes out to approximately $20 using this method, which seems anti-climactic in some ways – but while some courses had dramatic savings per student, a lot just broke even and a few actually went up a few dollars even though they stayed within the LCT range. These offset the total, whereas institutions that use a generic multiplier across all LCT-designated courses will not show this reality.

The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Clackamas Community College was 9,209.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Winter 2018 173 4,072 $65,181.59 1,515 11.42
Spring 2018 230 3,790 $84,980.11 1,650 13.94
Summer 2018 130 990 $28,122.46 486 26.75
Fall 2018 302 4,966 $108,625.12 1,537 19.65
Winter 2019 340 4,745 $81,143.48 1,533 22.18
Spring 2019 337 5,618 $107,174.62 1,524 22.11
Total 1512 24181 $475,227.38 8245 18.34

Clatsop Community College

We are listing low/no cost textbooks in our print catalog now and won’t be adding that feature to our online catalog until we replace our student information system. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Clatsop Community College was 1,741.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Winter 2019 44 660 49500 147 29.93
Spring 2019 50 750 56,250 134 37.31
Total 94 1410 $105,750 281 33.45

Columbia Gorge Community College

Columbia Gorge Community College was one of Oregon’s earliest adopters of a schedule designation. Since 2011, in 627 sections, 9,163 students have saved an estimated $916,300. CGCC uses the $100 multiplier to estimate savings. No-cost/low cost sections offered that didn’t fill were counted towards designated sections, though they didn’t result in student savings. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Columbia Gorge Community College was 1,492.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 36 303 $30,300 40 90.00
Fall 2017 65 1,037 $103,700 129 50.39
Winter 2018 83 1,297 $129,700 125 66.40
Spring 2018 76 1,019 $101,900 137 55.47
Summer 2018 33 255 25500 28 117.86
Fall 2018 85 1297 129700 129 65.89
Winter 2019 83 1070 10700 121 68.60
Spring 2019 85 993 99300 115 73.91
Total 546 7,271 $630,800 824 66.26

Klamath Community College

The data for the no-cost/low cost designation was obtained from the Institutional Researchers Office. Enrollment is based on week 4 numbers for classes with a minimum enrollment of 10 students. The low-cost courses are estimated at a $60 per person savings. The no-cost courses are estimated at $100 savings per person. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Klamath Community College was 1,954.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 10 153 $14,860 53 18.87
Fall 2017 25 534 $49,360 191 13.09
Winter 2018 26 559 $54,740 184 14.13
Spring 2018 30 515 $47,620 165 18.18
Summer 2018 18 315 29900 57 31.58
Fall 2018 27 539 52340 177 15.25
Winter 2019 49 896 80160 177 27.68
Spring 2019 37 690 60880 165 22.42
Total 222 4,201 $389,860 1169 18.99

Lane Community College

We didn’t have a working designation until Spring 2018, so that’s why there’s only one year of results here. We’re also considering reporting projected savings as a range, considering that our OER/low-cost designation includes materials that cost $40 or less (this data uses $80 as a multiplier, an average of the $100 savings for no-cost and $60 savings for no-cost courses). Areas of significant progress within our first year of tracking OER sections include:

  • Academic Learning Skills (ALS) with 62 designated sections out of 126 sections offered, allowing 952 students to use OER or low-cost materials
  • Computer Information Technology (CIT) with 64 designated sections out of 159 sections offered, allowing 1121 students to use OER or low-cost materials
  • Mathematics with 88 designated sections out of 322 sections offered, allowing 2261 students to use OER or low-cost materials

The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Lane Community College was 10,635.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2018 149 3,071 $245,680 1,022 14.58
Fall 2018 28 489 $39,120 309 9.06
Winter 2019 160 3,648 $291,840 1,111 14.40
Spring 2019 137 2,817 $225,360 1,061 12.91
Total 474 10,025 $802,000 3503 13.53

Linn-Benton Community College

At Linn-Benton Community College, Michaela Willi Hooper, OER/Textbook Affordability Librarian, identifies courses using OER, library resources, and free resources to replace materials that students have to pay for individually by collecting data from the bookstore, syllabi, and faculty inquiries. She pulls enrollment data from the student information system and calculates savings based on historic new textbook prices at the college store. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Linn-Benton Community College was 8,636.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 23 332 $40,248.48 194 11.86
Fall 2017 139 3,439 $444,863.29 1019 13.64
Winter 2018 114 2,785 $382,232.63 925 12.32
Spring 2018 115 2,581 $326,424.34 813 14.15
Summer 2018 24 495 $62,753.21 158 15.19
Fall 2018 180 4054 $505,949.54 946 19.03
Winter 2019 165 3720 $469,451.25 875 18.86
Spring 2019 153 3191 $420,479.07 812 18.84
Total 913 20,597 $2,652,401.81 5742 15.90

Mt. Hood Community College

Estimated savings are calculated using the No-Cost/Low-Cost designation that faculty reported on the Course Section Reporting Form. We assumed a cost savings to the student of $100 in no-cost sections and $75 in low-cost sections. These numbers exclude College Now and Apprenticeship credit courses and some of our non-credit areas like Community Ed and Workforce. It does however include ABS/GED areas as these faculty are asked to fill out the course section reporting form.

Mt. Hood Community College saw low reporting rates during the 2018-19 academic year due to lack of marking resulting from too few reminders to faculty. So this is data from the faculty who remembered to report all on their own.

The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Mt. Hood Community College was 9,258.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 44 578 $53,400.00 479 9.19
Fall 2017 186 3,461 $310,025.00 1184 15.71
Winter 2018 141 2,452 $223,950.00 1117 12.62
Spring 2018 104 1,620 $146,875.00 1126 9.24
Summer 2018* 17 206 $19,375.00 432 3.94
Fall 2018* 64 1194 $110,400.00 1120 5.71
Winter 2019* 42 645 $60,100.00 1055 3.98
Spring 2019* 67 1228 $114,175.00 1062 6.31
Total 665 11,384 $1,038,300.00 7575 8.78

Oregon Coast Community College

Oregon Coast Community College estimates $100 savings per student, per course. The bookstore maintains a list of courses with the designation “No Text Required.” The college does not track low-cost courses. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Oregon Coast Community College was 944.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 13 77 $7,700.00 44 29.55
Fall 2017 29 352 $35,200.00 119 24.37
Winter 2018 26 325 $32,500.00 137 18.98
Spring 2018 28 343 $34,300.00 131 21.37
Summer 2018 15 78 $7,800.00 49 30.61
Fall 2018 31 361 $36,100.00 140 22.14
Winter 2019 25 274 $27,400.00 142 17.61
Spring 2019 33 329 $32,900.00 150 22.00
Total 200 2,139 $213,900.00 912 21.93

Oregon State University

Until fall 2018, OSU did not have a mechanism to distinguish low-cost and no-cost course materials. All numbers below are therefore self-reported by faculty. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, faculty could only designate a course as either “no cost via bookstore” or “no cost via instructor.” In Winter 2019, OSU began to count courses using low-cost materials (under $40).

The enrollment information came from the Beaver Bookstore. We used the actual enrollment data when available; otherwise, we used an estimated enrollment number. To estimate the cost savings, OSU uses $75 as the average per textbook for no-cost courses in order to reflect more accurately the fact that many students rent, buy used, or rely on the library course reserves materials to acquire their textbook (OpenStax lowered their “lower-end” number to $79 to reflect the national textbook cost data). OSU uses $40 for low-cost courses.

OSU estimates that approximately 4000 course sections are offered per term. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Oregon State University was 32,245.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 13 553 $41,475 4000 0.33
Fall 2017 15 876 $65,700 4000 0.38
Winter 2018 10 534 $40,050 4000 0.25
Spring 2018 28 1158 $86,850 4000 0.70
Summer 2018 19 1083 $81,225 4000 0.48
Fall 2018 28 1221 $91,575 4000 0.70
Winter 2019 435 12014 637250 4000 10.88
Spring 2019 409 11097 581045 4000 10.23
Total 957 28536 $1,625,170 32000 2.99

Portland Community College

Savings are estimates and use $100 text cost as per Open Oregon Educational Resources suggestion in Estimating student savings from no-cost/low-cost course materials. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Portland Community College was 33,789.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 390 5525 $486,340 2,965 13.15
Fall 2017 1004 14956 $1,353,280 5,836 17.20
Winter 2018 750 12293 $1,076,220 5,742 13.06
Spring 2018 1069 15851 $1,383,420 5,702 18.75
Summer 2018 240 3586 $319,920.00 2,872 8.36
Fall 2018 786 12021 $1,141,060.00 5,615 14.00
Winter 2019 980 15244 $1,415,640.00 5,307 18.47
Spring 2019 728 11241 $1,064,980.00 5,202 13.99
Total 5947 90717 $8,240,860 39,241 15.16

Portland State University

Our savings estimates uses $90 as an average expenditure per student, per course. This average is a commonly used figure in literature and research on open (see, for example, Hilton, Robinson, Wiley, and Ackerman’s article, Cost-savings achieved in two semesters through the adoption of open educational resources). The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Portland State University was 26,379.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Fall 2017 2 4 $360 5,224 0.04
Winter 2018 338 5,754 $517,860 5,193 6.51
Spring 2018 285 4,823 $434,070 5236 5.44
Summer 2018 35 636 57240 1774 1.97
Fall 2018 168 2,840 255600 4900 3.43
Winter 2019 311 5189 467010 5041 6.17
Spring 2019 279 4304 387360 5,165 5.40
Total 1418 23550 $2,119,500 32533 4.36

Rogue Community College

To estimate student savings at Rogue Community College from designated no-cost/low-cost course designations on the schedule, we ran a report on textbook adoptions reported to the bookstore. For the headcount, we use the estimated figure of 20 students per class. We used the established figure of $100 as the cost of a traditional textbook to compare to no-cost/low-cost textbooks.

RCC students are actually saving much more than our recorded estimated savings, because not all faculty report their adoptions to the bookstore and the current LMS, in certain scenarios, does not correctly flag all no-cost/low-cost textbooks. For example, a course that offers a print OER, as well as access to the free online version, will report their textbook as “optional” to allow students the choice of buying the print book or accessing the free version. However, marking a textbook “optional” does not flag it as a no-cost/low-cost textbook in the schedule.

The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Rogue Community College was 6,203.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 2 $3,197 1003 0.20
Fall 2017 98 $159,185 1509 6.49
Winter 2018 193 $315,383 1724 11.19
Spring 2018 537 $1,010,712 1776 30.24
Summer 2018 295 $562,458.00 976 30.23
Fall 2018 460 $842,894.00 1421 32.37
Winter 2019 369 $677,748.00 1728 21.35
Spring 2019 44 $76,602.00 1456 3.02
Total 1998 0 $3,648,179 11593 17.23

Southern Oregon University

Spring 19 was the first term that SOU had a no-cost/low-cost schedule designation. Based on enrollment and assuming a $100 textbook, students saved $520,551 in courses with no materials costs, and $148,065 in courses with low materials costs. The former is almost certainly an overestimate, as it includes courses that probably never had a textbook, like the arts and athletics. On the other hand, we also have a nearly 500 courses with no adoption information that included no- and low-cost courses, offsetting the overestimated number. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Southern Oregon University was 6,119.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Spring 2019 459 6083 $668,616.00 1082 42.42
Total 459 6083 $668,616 1082 42.42

Southwestern Oregon Community College

Southwestern Oregon Community College’s institutional researcher prepared a report showing all classes marked as LC or NC in the student information system (Jenzabar), along with student enrollments per section. The higher course and enrollment numbers beginning in Spring 18 reflect progress in moving from pilot to full implementation with the course schedule designation. SOCC used $100 as the savings estimate for no-cost courses, and $50 as the savings estimate for low-cost courses (because their low-cost threshold is $50). The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Southwestern Oregon Community College was 2,910.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 0 0 $0
Fall 2017 7 161 $10,700
Winter 2018 10 157 $9,800
Spring 2018 80 1,096 $74,750
Summer 2018 8 115 7900
Fall 2018 78 1415 101650
Winter 2019 73 1210 83300
Spring 2019 82 1345 98650
Total 338 5499 $386,750 1445 23.39

Treasure Valley Community College

Treasure Valley Community College estimates savings for no-cost courses at $75, and for low-cost courses at $50. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Treasure Valley Community College was 941.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 1 14 $1,050 464 0.22
Fall 2017 4 14 $750 942 0.42
Winter 2018 130 868 $53,850 816 15.93
Spring 2018 140 1,136 $77,200 971 14.42
Summer 2018 2 2 150 534 0.37
Fall 2018 114 849 42550 864 13.19
Winter 2019 129 0 0 480 26.88
Spring 2019 140 0 0 438 31.96
Total 660 2883 $175,550 5509 11.98

Umpqua Community College

Librarians at Umpqua Community College pull an enrollment report for courses with the no-cost attribute from the SIS, then multiply enrollment by $100 to estimate savings. Savings for Low Cost designated courses was calculated as $50 per student based upon the $100 average cost of a textbook minus the $50 price maximum of course materials for Low Cost designated courses. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for Umpqua Community College was 3,785.

Note that data from Summer 2018 – Spring 2019 is not as accurate as we would like. We had problems with the process that faculty reported information to the bookstore during this time. We have worked to fix it and expect that will have fairly reliable data beginning fall 2019 and that its reliability will continue to improve as we check its accuracy and make improvements.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Summer 2017 10 148 $14,800 153 6.54
Fall 2017 22 393 $39,300 461 4.77
Winter 2018 33 448 $34,750 442 7.47
Spring 2018 65 896 $70,650 437 14.87
Summer 2018 9 222 9750 112 8.04
Fall 2018 30 592 44800 424 7.08
Winter 2019 44 601 36450 376 11.70
Spring 2019 70 1100 65400 398 17.59
Total 283 4400 $315,900 2803 10.10

University of Oregon

For each course designated at low/no cost, we calculate: ( max enrollment * $100) – ( max enrollment * actual cost ) = savings. Actual enrollment won’t be as consistent term over term when reporting; actual enrollment is also close enough to maximum enrollment to be negligible for these purposes. The 2018 Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment for University of Oregon was 22,777.

Term # Designated Sections # Students in Designated Sections Estimated Savings Total sections offered % no-cost/low-cost
Fall 2017 551 20767 $1,494,041 3390 16.25
Winter 2018 411 14707 $1,108,909 2226 18.46
Spring 2018 379 15052 $1,142,640 2273 16.67
Summer 2018 94 4154 $303,711 1747 5.38
Fall 2018 480 18259 $1,384,749 2367 20.28
Winter 2019 440 15870 $1,197,983 2026 21.72
Spring 2019 409 14250 $959,243 2051 19.94
Total 2764 103059 $7,591,276 16080 17.19

Data sources

Oregon Community College Fall, Fourth Week Headcount Enrollment, 2012-2018
Oregon Public University NONRESIDENT Fall 4th Week Headcount Enrollment Including Extended Enrollment, 2001-2018
Oregon Public University Resident Fall 4th Week Headcount Enrollment Including Extended Enrollment, 2001-2018

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