Open Educational Resources (OERs): No-cost / Low-cost

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.

House Bill 2871

HB 2871 Establishes an Open Educational Resources Grant Program within the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

Effective July 20, 2015, Section 4 of Oregon HB 2871 states:

Each public university listed in ORS 352.002 and community college shall prominently designate courses whose course materials exclusively consist of open or free textbooks or other low-cost or no-cost course materials. The course designation required by this section must appear in the published course descriptions that are on the Internet or are otherwise provided to students at the time of course registration

Please note, this is a legislative mandate that PSU is required by law to comply with. If your course section meets one of the two designations then it must be prominently designated as such, in our Course Schedule. You cannot opt-out of labeling your course.

For more information on HB2781 visit the Open Educational Resources page on the Higher Education Coordinating Commission's website. 

Course Designation

book with the number zero crossed out

No-Cost = $0

The course either requires no textbooks or exclusively uses course materials that are of no-cost to the student.

No-Cost Example: The instructor provides a link to a free, online version of the online textbooks, but gives students the option to print-on-demand; as long as the instructor does not require the student to print the textbook, the cost of printing does not disqualify the No-Cost designation.

No-cost icon

Low-Cost = $1 - $40

To be designated as a Low-Cost course, the combined cost of the textbook or required course materials, such as workbooks, streaming media, lab manuals, online homework platforms and codes or publisher-provided curricular materials should be $40 or less (but more than $0). 

  • The threshold is based on the new book price at the campus bookstore or charged by the publisher directly, whichever is lower.
  • Prorating the book cost based on its use across a multi-sequenced set of courses is not allowed. For example, a $80 textbook spanning two quarters cannot be prorated 50/50, thus not to be labeled Low-Cost.
  • The $40 threshold applies to a class regardless of the number of credits.

Example cases for labeling a course as meeting the low-cost threshold:

  • Use of an inexpensive commercial textbook costing $40 or less
  • Use of a course material bundle (e.g., textbook and homework website) costing $40 or less
    • A textbook costing $30 and online homework site costing $10
  • Use of faculty-developed course packages costing $40 or less.

How are No-Cost and Low-Cost course designations determined?

The following definitions regarding what is included in these course designations will be effective beginning Fall Term 2022.

Included: All required textbooks, course packs, and other text-based materials, workbooks, lab manuals, online homework platforms, access codes and other publisher-provided curricular materials.

Excluded: Art supplies, calculators or other equipment, and any Course Fees. Also excluded are optional texts that students are not required to purchase for your course section.

Optional costs are not included. For example: you provide students with a link to a free, online version of your materials but give them the option to purchase printed versions. The optional cost of printing these materials is not included in your calculation. However, if the print version is required in your class, it will be included.

If a text is used across multiple courses in a sequence DO NOT base your calculation on the cost divided by those courses. For example, a text that costs $120 that is required for 3 sequenced courses DOES NOT meet the $40 or Under Textbook label requirement. Not all students take all courses in a series. Students may take courses over time and may have to pay for edition changes. Students must pay the $120 and cannot budget for 3 even payments.

What cost will be used? What if materials are less expensive on Amazon, etc.? Text-related costs for these designations will be calculated using the price at the PSU Bookstore. While materials may be less expensive elsewhere, students may have access to a financial aid voucher that may be used at the PSU Bookstore prior to the release of financial aid funds by the college.  

What if my text is available as an e-book through the PSU library? If the required text is available as a free-to-students e-book through the PSU library, as long as you do not require the printed text in your class, your course can qualify for the No-Cost designation. However, we strongly recommend that you work with the Library to determine longevity of access to any particular e-book.  

What if I don’t require any texts or “outside” materials for my class? Your course CAN qualify for the $0 designation if no “outside” materials or texts are required. Apply the question: does my course have any text, course materials, or publisher-related costs? If the answer is no, the course meets the $0 designation. If the answer is yes, but $40 or less, the course meets the low-cost designation.

What should I be doing?


Calculate the cost of text/publisher materials for your courses. If your  course meets one of the 2 designations, contact the person who does the course scheduling for your department  to ask them to add the code.  If your course doesn’t meet one of these designations, you don’t need to do anything.

Department Chairs & Deans

Work with your faculty and scheduling staff to develop processes to collect this information from faculty each term. Designate roles and responsibilities for your unit in collecting this information for the published schedule so that  this information is collected and published in compliance with the legislation process.  

Departmental Scheduling Staff

Work with your faculty and department chairs to develop processes to collect this information from faculty each term. Designate roles and responsibilities for the process.