University Communications

Minnesota State earns Open Educational Resources Grant

The United States Department of Education (DoEd) has awarded Minnesota State a three-year, $978,332 grant to establish the “Opening Opportunities for Teacher Education” program. The program will create open textbooks and open educational resources (OERs) for core teacher education courses that will provide significant savings for students while maintaining or improving student learning outcomes.

St. Cloud State University is one of six Minnesota State institutions collaborating in the grant. 

Open Educational Resources are digital textbooks and other educational materials that are freely licensed and available at no cost – potentially saving students thousands of dollars. “They are a proven way to improve the affordability of higher education for students,” said Devinder Malhotra, chancellor of Minnesota State, “and we can be very proud of our success in this area. I would like to express sincere thanks to our entire congressional delegation for their public support of our grant application, as well as Trustees Erlandson and Moe and Chair Cowles for their support and engagement."

The grant provides funding that will allow Minnesota State to create open textbooks and other OERs for six core teacher education courses. This will help attract and retain students in teacher preparation programs, prepare teachers to instruct students who are racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse, and support faculty within teacher preparation programs through training and professional development. Each teacher education student that uses OERs in these courses can save approximately $500 per year on textbooks. Total annual savings for students at Minnesota State teacher education programs are estimated to be $540,000 to $750,000. Because the OERs will be aligned to national teaching standards, any teacher education program can adopt these resources, making the potential total savings in Minnesota and across the nation significantly higher. The Minnesota State colleges and universities that collaborated in the grant application include Century College, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Normandale Community College, Southwest Minnesota State University (the fiscal agent), St. Cloud State University, and St. Cloud Technical and Community College.

Because of strong collaboration from Minnesota State system leaders and the strong support  of the Minnesota policymakers, Minnesota State is a recognized leader in the development of OERs nationwide. Seven colleges of Minnesota State offer “Z-Degrees,” which are complete Associate of Art degree programs that exclusively use OERs, saving students an estimated $2,000 in textbook costs. The 2021 Higher Education Funding bill before the Legislature includes an appropriation for four additional Minnesota State colleges or universities to offer a Z-Degree by the 2023-2024 academic year, complementing the DoEd grant by enhancing the use of OERs in Transfer Pathways to state universities. The total savings in textbook costs to Minnesota State students from OERs are estimated to be $3 million per year.

The DoEd grant will help address a significant shortage of teachers that is being felt in Minnesota and nationwide. As of 2018, Minnesota had 2,458 teaching assignments held by individuals with special permissions to teach in a licensed field where they did not possess the full qualifications to teach in that field. The teacher shortage is more deeply felt along racial lines: according to the 2019 Biennial Minnesota Teacher Supply and Demand Report, only 2,745 (3.4%) active teachers were people of color in 2017-18.