‘Innovation of the Year’ Tackles Issue of Textbook Affordability

Montgomery County Community College President Dr. Karen A. Stout (left) and Financial Aid Specialist Ashley Smith (right) present Holly Parker, Stowe, financial aid and enrollment generalist, with the 2015 Innovation of the Year award. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Montgomery County Community College President Dr. Karen A. Stout (left) and Financial Aid Specialist Ashley Smith (right) present Holly Parker, Stowe, financial aid and enrollment generalist, with the 2015 Innovation of the Year award. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Montgomery County Community College’s 10th annual Innovation of the Year award was presented to Holly Parker, of Stowe, financial aid and enrollment generalist, for her work to develop a Student Success Textbook Lending Library at the College’s West Campus in Pottstown.

Seven projects were nominated for the 2015 honor, and all were evaluated against criteria established by the League for Innovation in the Community College—an international organization committed to improving community colleges through innovation. Award criteria include quality, efficiency, cost effectiveness, replication, creativity and timeliness.

Ultimately, a college-wide committee selected the Student Success Textbook Lending Library as the winner because it touches all six of the College’s strategic goals, especially as they relate to student access and success.

Launched in 2012 in response to the rising cost of textbooks, the initiative addresses a very real, very challenging problem faced by community college students.

“We started seeing more and more students, especially those who are out-of-county or who have student loans, struggle to pay for their textbooks. The idea was very grassroots—how can we help a handful of students?” explained Parker.

What began with a few textbooks donated by West Campus faculty has grown into a library of more than 75 titles.

“We partnered with Phi Theta Kappa [honor society] on a campaign to collect books from students. We also offered lunch vouchers in the cafeteria for students who donated their books once they were done with them,” said Parker.

Last year, thanks to an internal grant from MCCC’s Foundation, Parker was able to purchase high-demand textbooks for the library, thereby helping greater numbers of students.

“We’re still building the collection, especially since textbooks go out of date so quickly,” said Parker, who works with individual faculty to determine whether students can continue to use older editions of some textbooks and materials. “The initiative has really helped a lot of students who are financially pressed.”

To date, the Student Success Textbook Lending Library at the West Campus has enabled more than100 students complete their course requirements.

As recipient of the College’s award, the lending library initiative will be forwarded to the League for Innovation in the Community College for national recognition in a program that showcases innovation at America’s community colleges.

Other projects nominated the 2015 Innovation of the Year at MCCC included Academic Affairs Analytics; Winter Session Pilot; Sustainable Waste Solutions Partnership with the Culinary Arts Institute; Green Office Initiative; LED Light Bulb Replacement Initiative; and PHEAA Grant Database Automation. Collectively 34 members of MCCC’s faculty and staff worked on the nominated projects.

~ by Alana J. Mauger

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