Every year college students shell out an astounding $1,200 for textbooks and supplies. More and more intellectuals and academics are noticing the prohibitive cost of higher education. This is not only creating generations’ worth of graduates saddled with crippling debt, but it also causes underemployment and a sluggish economy. Additionally, this is making college education increasingly difficult for underprivileged people to acquire. Luckily there are groups that are taking steps to alleviate the cost of higher education because they believe that higher education is a right and not a privilege.
One of the organisations that are helping to make college textbooks free is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In mid-2016 a rumour circulated that Bill and Melinda Gates were creating a website that would offer textbooks at zero cost to college students. While they weren’t personally creating a website they helped fund a Rice University initiative, called Openstax.org, which offers a constantly expanding list of completely free college textbooks. Experts and academics author all the books in the field and meet educational standards. Here are the free textbooks that are currently available and the courses they cover.
Free Math Textbooks
When this article was written Openstax offered seven books on the subject of Math, with a book on Pre-Algebra becoming available in the near future according to the website.
Algebra And Trigonometry – This book is intended to be used in an introductory trigonometry and algebra course. It is authored to fit within the requirements of a typical intro course on the subject.
Calculus Vol. 1, 2, 3 – It is written for a 2-3 semester general course on calculus, thus the reason it comes in three separate volumes. Each volume of the Calculus books covers a different group of concepts: Vol. 1 – functions, limits, derivatives and integration. Vol. 2 – integration, differential equations, sequences and series, parametric equations and polar coordinates.
College Algebra – This book can be used in a typical intro algebra course and offers the college student with numerous examples to practice on their own.
Introductory Statistics – An introduction to statistics for students not studying S.T.E.M. subjects (science, technology, engineering, math).
Pre-Calculus – This textbook actually offers more information than a general one or two semesters’ course in pre-calculus at college level.
Pre-Algebra – At the time of writing this article, the Pre-Algebra book was not yet available, with announcement that it would be coming soon. When released, the pre-algebra book will cover the coursework that a semester’s long college-level pre-algebra course would.
At the time of this article’s writing, Openstax offered a whopping 12 free textbooks related to science.
Anatomy and Physiology – This book covers the information that would typically be taught in a two-semester physiology and anatomy course.
Astronomy – covering the material that would typically be taught during an intro astronomy course. It covers the solar system, cosmology, galaxies and stars.
Biology – This book is intended for college students majoring in the sciences and generally covers information that would be seen in a two-semester long biology course. It introduces the student to the fundamental concepts in biology and research.
Chemistry – Introduces student to chemistry and its real world applicability.
Chemistry Atoms First – This is one of Openstax open licensed books, that was also peer reviewed. It takes a slightly different approach to teaching chemistry by talking about molecular and atomic structures sooner than most texts. This helps the student get used to chemistry before they are forced to conquer more complex concepts.
College Physics – This book involves physics based on algebra and introduction to the fundamentals of the science.
Concepts of Biology – It is designed as an introduction for students that are not biology majors.
Microbiology – another one of Openstax open license books, it is published collaboratively with the American Society for Microbiology Press.
College Physics for AP Courses – This is a comprehensive suite of educational material including text, videos and guides for advanced placement assessment. The packet is approved for AP courses in Physics.
University Physics Vol. 1, 2, 3 – Much like the three volume calculus material, the university physics book covers the breadth of two to three semesters. It is separated into three books. Vol. 1 covers sounds, waves, oscillations and mechanics. Vol. 2 covers magnetism, thermodynamics and electricity and Vol. 3 covers the concepts of modern physics and optics.
Social Sciences Textbooks
American Government – This book explores the core ideas of American Government and its workings.
Sociology 2e – An introduction to the main tenements of sociology including luminary scholars of the discipline and new theories that are emerging.
Principles of Economics –Intended as the textbook for a course lasting two semesters, dealing with both traditional and Keynesian perspectives balancing macro and microeconomics..
Principles of Macroeconomics – A further exploration of macroeconomic concepts within an introduction to macroeconomics course.
Principles of Macroeconomics AP – An Advanced Placement introduction to macroeconomics, which covers necessary AP specific curriculum.
Principles of Microeconomics – An introductory exploration of microeconomics with application and theory of economic concepts.
Principles of Microeconomics AP - An AP course in microeconomics that will prepare students to meet the AP mandated requirements.
Psychology – Covers the material that is taught in a single semester intro psych class, covering the basics of the science and current research emerging.
U.S. History – This will cover the material taught in most intro courses to American History, using both eyewitness descriptions and traditional academic treatments.
What is Openstax
Now that we’ve seen the books let’s talk about who is offering them.
Openstax is Rice University nonprofit which seeks to help alleviate the cost of acquiring a college education by providing college textbooks for free. They offer books in a multitude of subject-matters, primarily focusing on core courses such as math, science, social sciences, humanities and AP courses. All the books on the website are offered as a free downloadable .pdf (high or low resolution), read them online or the ability to download them to iBook. You are also given the option of ordering a physical copy of the book, but you must pay a varying fee for that. This fantastic initiative is not only backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as I mentioned above but by companies such as Connect For Education, CogBooks and many others.
Freedom of Education
Another noteworthy group of people that make this endeavour possible are the people that actually write the books, without them there wouldn’t be any books to give away in the first place. These people come from diverse educational backgrounds and disciplines. Hopefully, this “trend” towards the democratisation of higher learning continues to build momentum, for the sake of future generations. Institutions such as Khanacademy and Codeacademy already offer a huge roster of absolutely free courses. Even traditional and prestigious institutions such as Harvard are offering free courses.
Educated members of the workforce, bolster the economy, are found to be healthier, which puts less of a burden on social provisions and funds. They also benefit commerce as higher educated individuals have been shown to be more productive, which not only translates to a positive effect on the micro scale but also on the macro scale. More productivity generally means higher yields and higher yields means higher salaries and a more robust consumer class. This is not hearsay either; it has been found that states with high wages have a well-educated workforce showing a strong correlation between education and a state’s median income.
Openstax isn’t the only free college textbook website out there, though, there are many other websites and resources that seek to liberate college education from the enormous financial weight and obligation.
Do you use Openstax? Are the textbooks as good as they say? Let us know in the comments section below…