Letter to the Editor: Free textbooks support quality education

Students will be starting a new academic year using one of more than 150 open textbooks, provided free of charge by the B.C. government.

By Andrew Wilkinson,

Minister of Advanced Education

Many incoming and returning post-secondary students in British Columbia will be starting a new academic year using one of more than 150 available open textbooks, provided free of charge by the B.C. government.

Open textbooks are available online and use an open licence, making digital versions free to use by students and faculty. Students have the choice of using them online for free, or printing them for a fraction of the cost of traditional textbooks, unlike some traditional textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars per course.

More than 170 faculty members at 23 public post-secondary institutions are participating. As a result, it is estimated that more than 15,600 students in B.C. have saved between $1.6 million and $2 million, so far, with open textbooks.

Since British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in Canada to launch a government-sponsored open textbook project, students and faculty have welcomed the idea. Many of our student organizations are leading the charge by campaigning to encourage and support faculty to create and adopt open textbooks, which will make the cost of post-secondary more affordable.

Open textbooks are available for a range of courses and programs from popular first- and second-year areas, such as math, chemistry and business, to skills and technical subjects, such as foundational trades courses, healthcare, tourism/hospitality and adult upgrading.

Course selection and career planning are important steps

Choosing these programs and courses can seem like a daunting task. Speaking with family, friends, career counsellors and employers is one way to begin the process.

A good starting place for anyone seeking information about post-secondary opportunities and future job prospects is EducationPlannerBC.ca. Here, you can find advice, information and links to resources such as application tools, financial aid information and job search resources to help plan your educational journey.

It is important to be prepared as British Columbia is expecting almost one-million job openings by 2025. Around 80% of these nearly one-million jobs will require post-secondary education or training.

Two-thirds of the openings will be from retirements and the rest will come from strong economic growth in B.C. Our Skills for Jobs Blueprint outlines the plan by our government to make sure that students are well positioned to take advantage of these job opportunities.

In-demand occupations requiring post-secondary education or training range from professional and management careers to trades, and lead to employment in the technology industry, the resource sector, health care and elsewhere.

As an example, the tech sector employs close to 86,000 people, generates about $23 billion in annual revenue and offers higher than average pay.

The tech sector offers a range of potential career opportunities. For example, a digital media company in Kelowna will need people with different technology skills than a computer gaming company in Victoria.

Higher education remains a priority for government

Across the public post-secondary system, your government invests approximately $5 million every day to support universities, colleges and institutes, while keeping student tuition fourth lowest in Canada.

More than 32,000 new student seats – including 2,500 graduate student spaces – and seven public university campuses have been added to the public post-secondary system since 2001.

Students can also expect to see new buildings springing up on post-secondary campuses as a result of our $2.6 billion-investment in capital and infrastructure projects over the next three years.

Examples include a new Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus that is under construction in Vancouver, a new trades training building at Northern Lights College in Dawson Creek, as well as the Chip and Shannon Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond that broke ground this summer.

Completing your post-secondary education will pay off whether it is a trade, a certificate or an undergraduate degree. For example, British Columbians with an undergraduate post-secondary degree can expect to earn an additional $827,000 over their lifetime.

Post-secondary education is an investment in your future. Free-to-use open textbooks are just one way that students can continue to access high-quality and affordable post-secondary education. Search the collection of open textbooks online at: http://open.bccampus.ca


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