Supporting the development and adoption of open source in universities

Open Source Projects and Resources

Government Public Records - Public records on education in the United States

Open Educational Resources - Promotes open educational resources

OpenUSS - Open source software for universities and faculties

MIT OpenCourseWare - MIT course materials available to anyone for free

COSTP - California Open Source Textbook Project

Why support open source at universities?

Education is incredibly expensive. Tuition continues to increase every year by a shocking amount. Public records from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics show that the average cost of attending a 4-year university in 1980 was $8,756 per year in inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars. The average cost in 2010 of attending a 4-year university was $21,657 in 2010 dollars. 2-year colleges and technical institutes had similar increases in tuition.

College students are saddled with huge student loans when they graduate. In 2012, the average student graduated with $27,253 in student loans and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released figures showing that 11 percent of all student loans were delinquent.

Public colleges and universities are one of the largest expenditures on state budgets. Many states were forced to cut higher education budgets following the economic downturn that resulted from the financial crisis in 2008. One way to help lower the costs for colleges and universities is through open source software and projects.

Businesses have been benefiting from the use of open source software for years. Many organizations have switched to open source productivity suites like Libre Office and no longer have to pay costly licensing fees. The vast majority of websites run on an open source operating system, database and web server. The biggest benefit to businesses is drastically lower costs. The software is usually free so their only costs are related to installing the software and keeping it up to date with the latest patches. In some cases, the open source solutions are superior to commercial alternatives when it comes to feature sets and functionality.

Colleges and universities should be using open source software and projects to try to reduce their costs. Many have embraced open source solutions and have benefitted greatly as a result of doing so. Some universities are even putting their entire course materials online and making them available to everyone in the world for free. California has been working on open source textbooks in an attempt to make quality textbooks freely available.

Universities are uniquely positioned for open source since many of their students are interested in working on such projects. Students often have a lot of free time and several would love to be able to work on a project that utilizes and enriches the skills they learn in the classroom.

Of course, students can greatly benefit from using open source applications. Avoiding the cost of a productivity suite is the easiest win for a student, but being able to access course materials without having to buy expensive textbooks would result in huge savings.

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