Instead of living on campus, Rutgers sophomore Jeannemarie Ryder is shaving a good amount off of her future debt by commuting to and from classes each day.

But one cost she simply can't avoid is the price tag of all the reading material needed for each course.

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Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ

That could change as soon as next semester, Ryder says. She's actually excited to hit the bookstore and possibly put out hundreds of dollars less than normal.

Taking a stand against the rising cost of textbooks for higher education students, Rutgers is launching a project that can save students as much as $500,000 in the first year.

Through the school's Open and Affordable Textbook Project, financial incentives are being offered to faculty or departments that replace textbooks with "open educational resources" — peer-reviewed publications that can be read and downloaded for free, or printed at an extremely low cost compared to the purchase of traditional textbooks.

"I'm trying to get an education and I have to put myself into debt, and this is going to help," said Ryder, a member of Rutgers-New Brunswick's student chapter of New Jersey Public Interest Research Group.

According to NJPIRG, Rutgers students pay an average of $1,5000 on textbooks each year. The national average is $1,300. Seven out of 10 students said they skip required textbooks due to cost, the group noted.

The incentives, administered by Rutgers University Libraries, are going to 12 groups throughout the Rutgers system.

"What we are trying to do at the libraries is provide incentives for faculty to redesign their courses by replacing traditional course materials that are often a high cost to students with free, low-cost or open alternatives," said Lily Todorinova, project coordinator and an undergraduate experience librarian.

While "open education" is still relatively new, Todorinova said, faculty may not be aware of what resources exist within their subject areas.

"Through the grant program we offer, it is also possible for a faculty member to write or create their own original course material," she added.

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