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Montgomery College Wins Grant to Develop Open Educational Resources to Reduce Costs and Raise College Completion Rate

Montgomery College has received a grant to create new degree programs using high quality open educational resources (OER). The initiative, which involves 38 community colleges in 13 states, is designed to help spur students’ progress and increase the likelihood of degree and certificate completion.

At an event last week, journalist Kavitha Cardoza spoke about her documentary Lower Income Higher Ed in which she saw, up close, the challenges lower income students face in both attending and staying in college. She described one student who lived in a homeless shelter in high school. “He had to wash his socks and underwear in the sink,” Cardoza said. But even after winning over $200,000 in scholarship money for College, he faced other struggles and eventually dropped out.

The OER initiative is designed to help remove financial roadblocks—including the cost of textbooks—that can derail students’ progress.

“We have fought hard to get everyone into the classroom,” said Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard, president of Montgomery College. “Now we have to make sure that every student is achieving inside the classroom so we are especially excited to be a part of this groundbreaking work in partnership with Achieving the Dream.”

Achieving the Dream (ATD) is a national community college reform network that will manage the new OER Degree program on behalf of a consortium of investors. The group of investors includes the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, the Shelter Hill Foundation, and the Speedwell Foundation.

Montgomery College was selected to participate in the ATD national reform network earlier this year, joining more than 200 community colleges across the country in advancing student success and closing the achievement gap.

The cost of textbooks, research shows, is a major barrier to student success. Annual costs of textbooks are about $1,300 per year for a full-time community college student and amount to about a third of the cost of an associate’s degree. Students who don’t complete college are over 50 percent more likely than those who graduated to cite textbook costs as a major financial barrier, according to a study by the research firm Public Agenda.

Equally important, using digital and interactive open educational resources such as open courseware will encourage faculty to teach students in more engaging and dynamic ways and invite students to become more actively involved in their own learning. The initiative’s requirement to create entire degree programs using OER also will trigger a careful re-examination of course content and sequencing to build up-to-date, cohesive degree programs.

“The OER effort is part of our broader student success strategies and objectives for the College,” said Dr. Sanjay Rai, senior vice president for academic affairs at Montgomery College.

The OER Degree Initiative will create a library of high-quality, digital, open courses available to other institutions and the public at large. Making resources easily available to all is expected to encourage OER wide adoption.

Colleges and states that have introduced OER initiatives have already seen significant results. Studies have shown that OER reduces costs and contributes to better grades, higher course completion rates, and faster degree completion.

ATD will help colleges make OER degrees critical elements of their student success efforts. Lumen Learning will provide technical assistance, SRI International will evaluate the implementation, and the Community College Consortium of Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) will facilitate a community of practice. At the completion of the initiative, all approved OER courses will be available through a comprehensive, easily accessible online platform.

About Achieving the Dream
Achieving the Dream, Inc. is a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping more community college students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree.

About Montgomery College
Montgomery College is a public, open admissions community college with campuses in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, plus workforce development/continuing education centers and off-site programs throughout Montgomery County, Md. The College serves nearly 60,000 students a year, through both credit and noncredit programs, in more than 130 areas of study.

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