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Low & No-Cost Educational Resources

Guide to finding and using low & no-cost materials, including open educational resources.


This guide presents pathways for promoting course materials affordability and access, with a focus on OER.  

Over the past 2 decades, college textbook prices have skyrocketed, resulting in documented effects on student academic success, with nearly all students seeking to reduce textbook costs through a variety of means, and self-reported behaviors such as not purchasing textbooks, or textbook sharing

At UC Merced, Undergraduate Admissions recommends students budget $1,047 annually for textbooks and supplies. The price of course materials may be the only way faculty can help reduce higher education costs for their students. Open educational resources (OER), low and no-cost materials can alleviate the impact of textbook costs and are increasingly used as quality alternatives.

To learn more about replacing commercial textbooks with OER, view published research by the Open Education Group and OER Research Fellows . For a snapshot of published OER research findings, visit The Review Project.

Pathways for Promoting Access & Affordability

Open Educational Resources (OER) 

  • OER are freely available online resources distributed under a copyright license that allows users to retain copies (download, duplicate, store, and manage), reuse, revise, remix, and perhaps most importantly, redistribute

Library Ebooks 

Library Course Resources Service

  • If you plan to use a small percentage of a text, a collection of articles, or streaming media, the Library can help make these items available to your students through CatCourses. Visit Course Resources for details and request instructions. 

Lower Cost Format & Delivery Options 

  • The UC Merced Bookstore can help you price format and delivery options when selecting materials for courses, such as ebook and rental options. 

Inclusive Access

Faculty Perspectives: Affordability Increases Access, Equity, Flexibility, Relevance, & Engagement (2:30)


Affordable Instruction Materials, presented by San Francisco State University (2:30.) 

Literature Review: Effectiveness & Perceptions of OER (4:40)



A Review of the Effectiveness & Perceptions of Open Educational Resources As Compared to Textbooks based on, 

Hilton, J. Open educational resources, student efficacy, and user perceptions: a synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018. Education Tech Research Dev 68, 853–876 (2020).