Open Educational Resources (OER) have demonstrated an increased success rate in the classroom while removing the cost barrier for students to access course materials; yet, research still shows that two-thirds of California students are not buying their textbooks due to cost. As the state of California takes strides towards prioritizing textbook affordability through Governor Newsom’s historic $115M investment in Zero-Textbook Cost (ZTC) degree programming, it is imperative that OER solutions continue to be informed by the student experience in order to have a lasting, scalable impact in the state.

With that in mind, we are thrilled to welcome the Michelson 20MM Foundation’s 2023 Textbook Affordability Fellows! 

Allen Kuo, he/him/his
Majoring in Bioinformatics, San Diego Miramar College 

A nomad of sorts, Allen has lived in Madison, Wisconsin; San Diego, California; Taipei, Taiwan; and Songdo-dong, South Korea. Majoring in Bioinformatics, Allen is not a stranger to the price of textbooks and is passionate about advancing textbook affordability. “For me, textbook affordability is a huge step towards making education more accessible,” he shared. “A bunch of resources are already accessible and out there as well, so it’s just a matter of changing the way people think about education as opposed to trying to find money to fix the problem.” When he’s not in class, Allen might be found lifting weights or playing the xylophone.

Katie Wagman, she/her/hers
Majoring in Public Affairs, University of California, Los Angeles

A native of Camarillo, California, Katie currently resides in Los Angeles where she is studying Public Affairs. As a student, Katie personally understands the accessibility and opportunities that flow from textbook affordability. “Textbooks are essential to higher education and the lack of affordable options means that an entire population of students cannot get the resources they need to succeed,” Katie reflected. “In fact, lack of affordability is the reason many people opt out of higher education altogether. More accessibility means more opportunity for students to further their education and their career.” Outside of the classroom, Katie enjoys writing poetry, reading, and spending time with her dog, Tyson. 

Over the course of the year, Allen and Katie will build the movement in California higher education to break down barriers to access and equity in the classroom through expanding the use of OER and protecting students in the textbook marketplace. Using organizing, research, and direct advocacy, together they will build the movement for affordability in higher education and open textbooks by developing projects designed to engage, educate, and kickstart campus communities of stakeholders on OER and ZTC implementation.

We look forward to sharing the outcomes of Katie and Allen’s efforts. Please join us in welcoming them!

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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