Congressman Bill Foster

Representing the 11th District of Illinois

Foster Introduces Bill to Reduce Cost of College Textbooks

Apr 22, 2014
Press Release
Continues Project Growth Initiative To Support Jobs And Economic Development

Washington, DC – In an economic climate where families in Illinois are struggling to afford the rising costs of higher education, Rep. Bill Foster (IL-11) has introduced legislation designed to increase the accessibility of high quality educational materials, making higher education more affordable and accessible for students. Today, Foster introduced H.R. 4455, the Learning Opportunities With Creation of Open Source Textbooks (LOW COST) Act.  Foster announced the legislation today at the University of St. Francis in a discussion with University of St. Francis President Dr. Arvid C. Johnson, Joliet Junior College President Dr. Debra Daniels, Will County Executive Larry Walsh Jr. and local college students and teachers. 

Foster introduced the legislation as part of his Project Growth initiative, which aims to support jobs and economic development in the 11th District of Illinois by focusing on four key issues: education, transportation, manufacturing and strengthening the middle class.

More information on project growth is available here.

Text of the LOW COST Act is available here.

“Skyrocketing textbook costs, along with the high costs of tuition, room and board, create a financial barrier that has become increasingly difficult for students to overcome,” Foster said.  “By making high quality educational materials freely accessible to the general public, students would save money on textbooks, making higher education more affordable and accessible.”

"Faculty is always concerned with the cost of education for our students, and when a great idea comes along that would reduce costs, we support it. I truly believe this bill will make a difference in the lives of struggling students and will help make college more affordable." Dr. Debbie Bacharz, Joliet nursing teacher.

The College Board has reported that, for academic year 2013-2014, students spent an average of $1,207-$1,270 on college books and supplies. Free open-source textbooks could help students struggling with debt after finishing college, reducing the debt from a 4-year college program by as much as $5,000.

The LOW COST Act is designed to make open source content freely available to students to download on their computers.  The Act would create a pilot program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a set of college-level open-source textbooks in the subjects of physics, chemistry, and calculus. It would also require federal agencies that spend a significant amount of money on scientific education and outreach to use some of those funds collaborating with NSF. Open source materials are materials that are posted on a website that is available free of charge and may be downloaded or redistributed free of charge by any member of the general public.  The original materials would be posted on the Federal Open Source Material Website, a website that would be created by this legislation.

“Posting these open source materials is a common sense solution that will allow our students to have access to the most up-to-date and accurate information available – without the burden of high prices,” Foster said.  “Making higher education affordable and accessible is a key component to supporting jobs and economic development in our community.  We can’t support job growth without a skilled workforce.”