In April 2021, the Senate of College Councils (SCC) passed S.R. 2103: A Resolution in Support of Requiring That Low-Cost Course Status Be Displayed on the University’s Course Schedule. The resolution explains the necessity and value of this functionality and “seeks to have the registrar denote any low-cost course in the official course schedule with a marker appearing next to courses which meet the low-cost criterion.”
Currently, instructors at UT Austin provide their course materials adoption information to the University Co-op ahead of each semester in accordance with Texas H.B. 33, and the Co-op publishes all selected materials by course even if those materials are not available through the Co-op.
More recently, Texas S.B. 810 requires additional transparency of institutions by requiring that they identify courses for which open educational resources (OER) are assigned. OER are typically available to students free of cost or at a very low cost compared to commercial textbooks and other materials. At present, these courses are identified on the Co-op website in list format. Website visitors will notice that this list is very short and not representative of all courses that utilize OER because instructors often do not provide this information to the Co-op if their course does not require students to purchase materials.
While the University follows the letter of the law related to S.B. 810 in this implementation, S.R. 2103 asks the University to follow the spirit of it, which is to allow students to search for and identify courses with low or no cost course materials costs where they are most likely to make those decisions — directly in the course schedule. The resolution suggests that $45 be used as the cut-off for “low cost” course materials designation, which is similar to the guidelines of other universities who have already implemented this feature. Institutions that have already adopted free and/or low cost course markings in their course schedules include UT Arlington, the University of Kansas, the City University of New York, and many more. (See many examples in the open textbook Marking Open and Affordable Courses: Best Practices and Case Studies.)
This is not the SCC’s first resolution in support of open, free, or affordable course materials. This resolution builds on S.R. 1808 (A Resolution in Support of UT Libraries’ Advocacy for Open Education Resources) and S.R. 1911 (In Support of the Creation of a University-Wide OER Faculty Award Program). This year, the SCC also partnered with UT Libraries to launch the first-ever Affordable Education Champions award program to recognize faculty who select free and affordable course materials. In the first year, more than two dozen nominations were submitted by students across campus, and five faculty members were formally recognized as the inaugural Affordable Education Champions.