TN Board of Regents awarding grants to 7 community colleges in the state

TENNESSEE — The Tennessee Board of Regents has awarded grants to faculty teams at seven community colleges to create learning materials for their courses that students will use for free, in lieu of commercially published textbooks.

This is an effort to continue to work to reduce the costs of college attendance and increase equity in student outcomes.

The grants totaled $314,536 and will be distributed to 12 faculty and staff teams who will use free or low-cost Open Educational Resources (OER) to create student learning materials for several general education courses which includes anatomy and physiology, English composition, Tennessee history, U.S. history, psychology, public speaking and mathematics, according to a release.

The first round of grant funding goes to:

  • Chattanooga State Community College
  • Columbia State Community College
  • Nashville State Community College
  • Northeast State Community College
  • Pellissippi State Community College
  • Roane State Community College
  • Southwest Tennessee Community College

The goal is to expand to more colleges and courses if funding becomes available, the release said.

“The cost of attendance is still a barrier for many students," said TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings. “Even with Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, which cover tuition and mandatory fees at our community and technical colleges, many students tell us they can’t afford textbooks.”

“Development of learning materials that are free for students is the critical next step in our efforts to make college affordable for all Tennesseans.”

A UT report found that students spend an average of $119.18 on textbooks and other materials per course, that 44% of students did not buy the materials due to their costs, 29% have taken fewer courses due to the costs and 17% have earned a poor grade because they could not afford the required materials, according to a release.

The purpose of the grant program is to improve learning outcomes for all students, with a focus on increasing access and success for traditionally underserved and underrepresented student populations, the release stated.

Everything will be available for free student use starting in Fall 2021.

“Open Educational Resources doesn’t require faculty to develop from scratch their own textbook," said Dr. Robert M. Denn, TBR associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. “It allows them to curate material from all the other faculty and institutions who have developed material. Some faculty might be writing original content, and some may be adapting to others.”

“In addition to saving students money, by incorporating OER in their classes, faculty can re-energize their teaching and better engage the students in the learning outcomes they have in their classes. When faculty can align their materials directly to their course of study, it’s better for their students,” Denn said.