An initiative at South Florida State College to expand the use of free textbooks has earned SFSC the Best Practice Award from the chancellor of the Florida College System (FCS). SFSC, with campuses in DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties, boasts an enrollment of 5,404 students.

On Nov. 2, Chancellor Madeline Pumariega, will recognize SFSC and three other FCS colleges for innovation and excellence during the Association of Florida Colleges’ 67th Annual Convention in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

SFSC began to explore the use of no-cost textbooks in a limited number of classes two years ago. Twenty SFSC instructors now use no-cost textbooks in their classrooms.

“The Chancellor’s Best Practice Awards is an opportunity for our colleges to showcase innovative program strategies that have proven successful at their colleges and in their communities,” said Pumariega. “This award program recognizes these colleges for creating successful programs and then shares those best practices with all institutions in the Florida College System.”

Earlier this year, Erik Christensen, SFSC’s dean of Applied Sciences and Technologies, spearheaded a strategic partnership with OpenStax to expand use of free textbooks at SFSC.

OpenStax improves access to college education by offering students its lineup of free textbooks for common first- and second-year college courses. OpenStax, a nonprofit organization, has pioneered the adoption of open educational resources (OER).

Dubbed SFSCopen by Christensen, the no-cost textbook initiative promotes the use of OER texts and study aides that reside in the public domain or permit free use and reuse by others.

SFSC faculty in psychology, first-year experience, and chemistry programs have already adopted OER textbooks in their courses, resulting in an annual cost savings to students of $125,480. According to the College Board, students spend about $1,300 each year for textbooks and supplies.

Studies have shown that students in courses using OER often show higher grades, increased number of courses taken, and reduced drop rates than when in courses with traditional textbooks.

The FCS is comprised of 28 public two- and four-year state colleges supported by the people of the State of Florida. The FCS enrolled 813,838 students in last full academic year.

In addition to SFSC, Pumariega recognized three other FCS member colleges: Broward College, Indian River State College, and Palm Beach State College.

“I applaud our colleges for their commitment to excellence and innovation in our system,” Pumariega said. “It is this commitment that keeps the Florida College System in the forefront as a national leader in higher education.”