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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Student senate pushes for OER expansion

Photo by Ebba Turi

Books line the shelves at Evans Library. 

On Nov. 2, 2022, the Texas A&M Student Senate passed a bill advocating for A&M to provide more free textbooks to students, especially in large introductory courses. Now, as the Texas state legislature kicks into session, the student government is taking the next step and lobbying state legislators to support Open Educational Resources, or OER.
Legislative Relations Commission member Allen Zhang, one of the initial authors of the bill, said he introduced the bill because he feels textbooks are unaffordable.
“As a student who has many classes that require me to purchase textbooks, some of them [over $100], I think it’s an enormous cost,” Zhang said. “I believe there are lots of free resources we could be using instead.”
The bill was intended to lessen the financial burden of textbooks for students, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences senator Dalton Flatt, another one of the bill’s authors, said.
“As college students, we know that books and textbooks are super expensive,” Flatt said. “With the OER bill, our hope is to make textbooks more accessible for students that cannot afford them.”
Patrick Englehart, chairman of the Legislative Relations Committee and the chief sponsor of the bill, said he wants OER to be significantly expanded into a statewide utility, with A&M collaborating with different universities across the state to produce the maximum quantity and quality of free educational materials.
“Schools working collaboratively on OER is the best way to expand its access to as many courses as possible,” Englehart said. “Some schools have professors that are super well known in their field … So if you have [a professor] writing their OER, and then other schools with other specialized professors writing their own OERs [and sharing them], we’re able to get the best OER for as many people as possible. ”
Englehart said the Legislative Relations Commission, the lobbying arm of the student government, is working to implement OER within larger educational bills in the legislature.
“For OER, [the Legislative Relations Commission is] in the stages of targeted advocacy,” Englehart said. “This means that they’re not [advocating for] the OER idea that the [student senate] had to be introduced as its own bill, but rather they’re trying to communicate with legislators to get the text inserted into other educational bills.”
The commission is looking to work with legislators with a track record of promoting educational causes, Legislative Relations Commission member Cade Conrad said.
“We’ve reached out to legislators who have already introduced bills relating to higher education and specifically open educational resources,” Conrad said. “Once we hear back from their offices, then we’ll be able to schedule meetings with them or actually travel to [their offices in] Austin.”
While a bill for expanding OER has not yet been introduced in the 88th and current session of the Texas legislature, which will run from Jan. 10 to May 29, a bill has been introduced that proposes exempting textbooks from sales tax during the beginning of college semesters.

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