Research on OER

The Impact of High Textbook Costs

According to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, during  the last ten years the cost of higher education prevented 2.4 million low and moderate income college-qualified high school graduates from completing their degree.1 In addition, college textbook prices have risen 1041% since 1977.2 Making textbooks more affordable is especially important since nearly 40% of CUNY students come from households with annual incomes of less than $20,0003 and students are told to budget $1,230 – $1,390 for textbooks and course materials. 4

A survey from Florida Virtual Campus found that 66.6% of students did not purchase required textbooks, which led to consequences such as earning poor grades, failing the course, taking fewer courses, or dropping or withdrawing from courses. 5

OER Empowers Students

Several studies have been conducted establishing the importance of OER in supporting student learning. For instance, Colvard et al (2018) found that adoption of OER materials at the University of Georgia led to increases in student performance, including a 53.12% increase in average course grades and a 29.54% decrease in drop, fail, or withdrawal (DFW) rates for part-time students. This survey also showed a significant increase in grades for students who received Pell grants. OER adoption also had a significant financial impact on students, resulting in their saving over $3 million.6

Here at Lehman, OER supports student success and the 90×30 initiative7. Thanks its early adoption of OER courses, Lehman students saved an estimated $350,000 in textbook costs in just one year. 8.

In addition, since OER materials can be hosted online, students can access their course materials before or during the first week of class. According to Brandle et al, 76% of CUNY students rated their ZTC materials as easier to access than traditional classes. In addition, the multiple access options frequently available with OER materials means that OER also allows students to use their personal devices to access required materials, and makes them more likely to complete assigned readings.9

Image of OER reported Benefits
Themes from Open-Ended Answers on the Benefits of ZTC. The majority of respondents (55%) expressed cost savings as a benefit, followed by 27% for ease of access (Brandle et al, 2019).

OER empowers Faculty

Open Educational Resources give faculty an unparalleled level of academic freedom. Thanks to OER, faculty can customize and conceptualize courses for their students.10 They can implement open pedagogy practices, and facilitate student participation through exercises such as creating test banks. At some institutions, OER creation has even been used in tenure and promotion guidelines.11

See examples of how Lehman Faculty have been empowered by adopting OER.

Additional Research

Bibliography of CUNY OER Publications


  1. Mortgaging our Future: How Financial Barriers to College Undercut America’s Global Competitiveness. (2006). Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. .
  2. Popken, B. (2015). College Textbook Prices Have Risen 1,041 Percent Since 1977. NBC News.
  3. Chellman, C., & Truelsch, S. (2017). The State of CUNY 2017: Where We Have Been, Where We Are At, Where We Are Going. CUNY Office of Policy Research.
  4. Trends in College Pricing 2019 (2019). The College Board.
  5. Donaldson, R. L., & Shen, E. (2016). 2016 Student Texbtook and Course Materials Survey. Florida Virtual Campus: Office of Distance Learning & Student Services.
  6. Colvard, N. B., Watson, C. E., & Park, H. (2018). The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 15.
  7. 90×30 Initiative. (n.d.). Lehman College. Retrieved March 31, 2020, from×30/
  8. Katz, S., & Cohen, M. (2018). Open Educational Resources  at Lehman College.
  9. Brandle, S., Katz, S., Hays, A., Beth, A., Cooney, C., DiSanto, J., Miles, L., & Morrison, A. (2019). But What Do The Students Think: Results of the CUNY Cross-Campus Zero-Textbook Cost Student Survey. Open Praxis, 11(1), 85.
  10. Ernst, D. (2017). Open Textbooks: Access, Affordability, and Academic Success [Education].
  11. Yano, B. (2017). Recognizing “Open” in Tenure and Promotion at UBC. SPARC.