Op-eds, Opinions

Raimondo: Cutting the cost of college textbooks

Op-ed Contributor
Thursday, October 19, 2017

This past summer, I met a mom in southern Rhode Island. She was dressed for work, and her kids were about the same age as my son, Tommy. We started talking. She told me about how she dropped out of high school when she got pregnant, then later earned her GED. She worked a few different jobs at deli counters for various grocery store chains, but had trouble supporting her family on the hourly wages they paid. So she enrolled at Rhode Island College and eventually got her degree.

Thanks to that degree, she told me, “I finally have a real job.” She works at an accounting firm full-time. And she told me to keep investing in education. “I’m living proof of the power of a degree,” she said.

I hear stories like hers from Rhode Islanders everywhere I go. It’s more important than ever to have some kind of education or credential past a high school degree. By 2025, it’s estimated that 70 percent of jobs in Rhode Island will require post-secondary education. But, according to our state Department of Labor and Training, less than 45 percent of Rhode Islanders have that right now.

We know that most high school students want to go to college. Every year, the R.I. Department of Education surveys seniors graduating from high school. About 90 percent say they want to go to college, but only 65 percent actually do. The number one reason students cite for not going? Money.

As governor, that’s a red flag to me. We need to do more to help students succeed.

Over the past two and a half years, we’ve made progress. We started offering the SAT and PSAT free of charge to every high school junior and senior. We expanded programs like the Advanced Coursework Network, which allows students to earn college credit for free while still in high school. And, with the passage of this year’s budget, we created the new Rhode Island Promise Scholarship, adding our name to the list of just four states in the nation offering free community college to our students. Already, more than 1,400 students have taken advantage of the scholarship at the Community College of Rhode Island, resulting in a more than 40 percent increase in enrollment since last year.

We need to attack the problem of college affordability from every angle. It’s not just the cost of courses or standardized tests that price students out of getting a degree — it’s also the cost of textbooks. That’s why last year, I launched the Rhode Island Open Textbook Initiative, challenging every college and university in the state to save students money by switching to free, openly-licensed textbooks.

The goal is to save college students $5 million over five years by supporting faculty in updating their syllabi and produce results. One year into the initiative, we can report over $870,000 in savings for over 6,000 Rhode Island students. And that number is still growing.

As students and faculty, there’s so much you can do to help. Brown hasn’t yet switched out any texts, but you can help us get there. So students: Talk to your administrators and professors. Let them know there are resources out there to support them in adopting open textbooks. Let them know how much this matters to you. And faculty: Talk to your librarians. Campuses across the state are hosting regular open textbook trainings, and every school has a trained librarian on staff who can help guide you to quality open resources in your subject matter.

This is just the beginning. Together, we can lower the cost of higher education for everyone and increase opportunity for all.

Gina M. Raimondo is the governor of Rhode Island. Please send responses to this opinion to and other op-eds to

Topics: ,

To stay up-to-date, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

  1. Ron Ruggieri says:

    I observed this about CCRI just a few years ago :

    [ “A male student in the nursing program showed me his Medical Terminology soft cover workbook . He said he paid $200.00 for it! The vocabulary of Medicine based on Latin and Greek roots has been standardized for a more than a century. I could find a similar text in a used book store for $5.00 .
    The Rhode Island rip off ? ” ]

    Also the cost of food in the CCRI cafeteria was rather outrageous. On the whole I am pleased with my college experience at the Warwick Campus of CCRI . I did get an Associate Degree there in 1977.

    May I dare suggest that ” higher education ” is indeed an antidote to senility – but not to the unemployment blues when you’re still quite young.

    I also recall hearing about” free ” community colleges in California way back in the ” Great Society ” era of LBJ ( circa 1965 ) .

    Perhaps Governor Raimondo might consider also reviving LBJ’s famous ” War on Poverty “. Now and then even rogues can do GOOD !

Comments are closed. If you have corrections to submit, you can email The Herald at