Harrisburg, PA – Continuing to help students with remote learning during the pandemic, the state Department of Education (PDE), through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries (OCL) announced $500,000 in funding to support affordability and equity in higher education. These funds will be offered through a new Open Educational Resources Grant Program (OER) funded by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) established by the CARES Act of 2020.

The program is designed to support student success and increase equitable, affordable access to higher education by decreasing student course-related costs and increasing opportunities to successfully complete educational requirements. The program will focus its efforts on providing high-quality virtual and distance learning through encouraging the ongoing practice of adopting open or zero-cost course materials.

“Improving access to resources and materials for some students of the commonwealth is a step toward improving student success,” said Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega. “The department is excited about the opportunity to award grants that will result in more affordable textbook options for students during a moment in time where financial relief is certainly welcomed and needed.”

The grant program will provide a series of mini-grants and stipends to encourage and support faculty in creating, adapting, and adopting Open Educational Resources and other zero-cost materials in institutions of postsecondary and higher education across Pennsylvania. This grant serves to alleviate student financial pressures and the challenges of converting existing curricula to online learning during the current crisis.

“The Office of Commonwealth Libraries constantly looks for ways to remove barriers, create pathways, and support learners of all ages,” said Deputy Secretary for the Office of Commonwealth Libraries Glenn R. Miller. “We’re pleased that these funds will help provide students with equitable access and options as they continue their education.”

OCL has chosen the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc. (PALCI) to distribute the grant funds. The first round of applications for the mini grants will open in March of 2021, followed by subsequent rounds planned for fall 2021 and spring 2022.

“We are so delighted to have the chance to expand on the excellent work already underway at so many Pennsylvania schools, and to help develop strong partnerships throughout our community,” said Alison Bradley, Director, Strategic Initiatives at the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium. “As the project home and fiscal agent for Affordable Learning PA, PALCI staff are uniquely positioned to see the strength of the open and affordable education community in Pennsylvania and look forward to the expanded impact that the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funds will support.”

The Wolf Administration has allocated $104 million in GEER funding to help keep students and educators safe and meet the unique challenges of COVID-19. The funding includes $15 million for connectivity, $19 million for schools designated for Additional Targeted Support and Improvement under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, $15 million for special education, $28 million to postsecondary institutions and adult basic education providers, $14 million to K-12 schools to support equity in continuity of education, $10.5 million to Career and Technical Education Centers, and $3 million for Preschool Early Intervention Programs.

All those who are interested in receiving application details, exciting updates, and breaking news about the Open Educational Resources Grant Program are encouraged to sign up for the program’s mailing list: Open Educational Resources Grant Program Mailing List Sign-Up

The Office of Commonwealth Libraries within the Pennsylvania Department of Education supports, develops, and provides library services for learning and advancement. For more information on the Pennsylvania State Library, visit their website or follow them on Twitter.

For more information about Pennsylvania’s education policies and programs please visit the Department of Education’s website or follow PDE on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.