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Garrett College, the Garrett College Foundation and a private donor couple are combining to fund an initiative to drastically reduce student textbook costs.

The college and foundation, along with part-time Garrett County residents Lori Richards and Ken Newbaker, are teaming up to provide $15,000 annually over the next two years to fund creation of Open Educational Resources (OERs) by Garrett College faculty.  OERs are online resources, available to students at free or dramatically reduced costs, which can replace traditional textbooks and other course materials.

Garrett College has applied for a matching OER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).  Whether the ARC grant is funded or not, GC President Richard Midcap said the college and foundation will move forward with the initiative thanks in part to the donation by Lori Richards and Ken Newbaker.

“The first wave of OERs, created by Garrett College faculty, have saved our students over $100,000 just in the last two years,” noted Dr. Midcap.  “The challenge is that faculty have to expend a considerable amount of time outside of regular hours to convert their courses to OERs.

“Many support materials that faculty receive from textbook publishers – test banks, assessment plans, auxiliary materials – must be produced by faculty members when they convert to OERs,” explained Dr. Midcap.  “The most effective – and most fair – way to accelerate this process is to compensate faculty to develop these resources.”

Funding from the college and the foundation – along with Richards and Newbaker – will help accomplish that goal.

“We’re very excited about this initiative,” said Richards, who indicated she and Newbaker researched how expensive and problematic the current system of funding course materials can be for students.  “We’re thrilled about the partnership between the college, the foundation, and hopefully ARC, and to be able to help.”

“The generosity and caring for our students by Lori and Ken is deeply appreciated by the Foundation,” said Cherie Krug, executive director of the Garrett College Foundation.  “With the burden of rising textbook costs, this gift will help to move our students toward being able to realize their dreams of a debt-free higher education.”

“I appreciate the support of the foundation, as well as the commitment from Lori and Ken, to fund an initiative that has such far-reaching potential,” added Dr. Midcap.

The OER initiative, assuming the matching ARC grant, will fund the development of 35 OER-supported courses over the next two years at Garrett College.