UConn co-op to donate $250,000 to affordable textbook initiatives

The UConn Co-op, now closed, has used money from its assets to create an affordable textbook initiative. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s Co-op is discussing plans to donate $250,000 to affordable textbook initiatives on campus, said president Timothy Dzurilla.

“The Co-op was started with the hopes of being able to supply students with affordable textbooks and the board of directors has decided that this is the best way to continue that mission,” Dzurilla said.

Funding is expected to come from the sale of the Co-op’s assets and inventory as part of the corporate dissolution process, Dzurilla said. The money would be donated to the UConn library system with an earmark for affordable open education resources, including textbooks.

The Co-op’s board felt supporting the development of open source resources was the best way to make a long term impact on the student body after closing its doors last year, said Joe Sweet, former treasurer for the Co-op.

“I think that will improve the overall affordability. I know textbook prices have sort of skyrocketed, when you see a $300 chemistry textbook for an entry level class that everyone has to take, it’s just insanity and we’re hoping that with that fund available, UConn can start taking some steps to really reduce the role of private booksellers on campus,” Sweet said.

Sweet said he is interested to see what role, if any, private booksellers on campus will take in supporting open source textbooks at UConn. It is up the university libraries to chose how to use the funds, but Sweet said he anticipates that the Undergraduate Student Government and ConnPIRG will remain involved in the process.

The donation was announced earlier this week at a meeting of USG’s Affordable Textbook Committee, although it has not yet been finalized, said USG president Dan Byrd. He said it would significantly expand open source resources at UConn, lessening the financial burden on students.

“Very few things get me giddy, but this has got me very giddy and very excited,” Byrd said. “When we’re able to offer low cost or free textbooks that are of high quality, students aren’t going to drop classes and they’ll get better grades.”

Last year, the Undergraduate Student Government contributed over $20,000 to print an open source textbook written by UConn chemistry professor Edward Neth. This semester alone, the textbook - available free online and in print for just $55 - has saved 2,000 intro level chemistry students more than $500,000, said Byrd, representative of the CT state task force on open textbooks.

Very few things get me giddy, but this has got me very giddy and very excited.
— USG President, Dan Byrd

The office of the Vice Provost has also secured a $100,000 grant for the Davis Educational Foundation to fund new open source for pricey subjects like biology, physics and calculus textbooks by the next academic year. The fund will provide $10,000 incentive grants to professors who incorporate open source textbooks into their classes, which often entails completely reworking their curriculum, Byrd said.

UConn’s open textbook initiatives focus on STEM subjects because they tend to have large classes and the most expensive books, said Byrd.


Correction: An earlier, Sept. 22 version did not make it clear that the donation has not been technically finalized yet. The updated version reflects that.

Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.armstrong@uconn.edu.