Faculty Encouraged to Use Mason’s Low-Cost/No Cost Textbook Options


For generations, college students worldwide have been forced to make tough financial choices—and students at George Mason University are no exception. A 2021 Virginia Course Materials Survey by VIVA, Virginia’s academic library consortium, found that due to prohibitive and increasing course material costs, the academic careers of students across the Commonwealth are damaged in the areas of progress (taking fewer courses), opportunity (not registering for specific courses), and success (earning poor grades and failing). The data also showed that costs have compromised students’ mental health and basic needs, as well as created a distrust of the U.S. education system. 

“It is critical that faculty are aware of the struggles that students experience and the choices they make when deciding what classes to take or what to major in because, for many, those choices are based on textbook costs,” said interim Dean of the University Libraries and University Librarian Anne Osterman. “By making their course materials more affordable, faculty can provide direct support to their students.” 

To be in line with Mason’s mission of inclusive support of students, the university has taken steps to help reduce those costs and ease students’ financial burdens, improving the likelihood that they possess course materials. Mason Libraries not only adds curriculum-relevant materials to its collections, such as course-adopted e-books available to unlimited simultaneous users (with support from VIVA in AY2022-23), but it also promotes the adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER) – freely-accessible textbooks, modules, videos, tests, assessment tools, and software – that can be implemented across the colleges. 

The Libraries’ program includes: 

  • TextSelect: The Libraries’ longstanding print textbook reserves program that purchases a copy of all required textbooks over $40 for in-person Mason Core courses. In the academic year 2022-2023, over 20,000 students were enrolled in courses supported by TextSelect for a potential cost avoidance of over $2.5 million. 

  • Leganto: Software licensed by the Libraries that streamlines access to course materials that are part of the Libraries’ collections and reduces the cost to students by enabling faculty to quickly search, find, and add library materials to their courses—all from within Blackboard.  

  • Mason OER Metafinder: Internationally known, Mason’s real-time search portal allows faculty to search across 22 different sources of OER that can be used for teaching and research.  

  • VIVA Open: Provided by VIVA, this curated collection of OER enables faculty to search materials by subject and education level (undergraduate/graduate) and create or remix OER materials, including those created by Virginia faculty.  

  • Mason Publishing: Supports faculty developing or adapting OER with publishing services such as editorial assistance, identifier assignment, permanent hosting, and guidance for improving resource discoverability. 

Mason is committed to helping students minimize the cost of their education. As such, the university is working on a new Textbook Adoptions and Sales policy to ensure that students have access to affordable course materials. This policy will be designed to align Mason with state-level policies on using more low-cost/no-cost teaching materials in our classrooms. An announcement will be made once the policy is final. Librarians are available to help students and instructors search for digital access to textbooks and course materials. For details, contact Mason Libraries