You get (more than) what you pay for

My first haircut was done in a professional salon. Not a kiddie haircut place, but a full-on, high-quality-need-a-license-to-sell-these-products salon. Granted it was a family friend who cut my hair, and she didn’t charge us for the cut, but from then on I only went to that same salon for all of my haircuts (and paid a salon price) until I was in junior high. It seemed worth it to me because 1) my parents had to foot the bill and 2) I was obsessed with my hair. Cutting off even an inch felt like I was parting with an essential part of myself and my identity. I would complain about feeling bald for the next two weeks until I adjusted to my new haircut.

When I was in eighth grade, for some reason I don’t remember now, I needed a haircut and my mom took me to a Fantastic Sam’s which we thought would work well because they take walk-ins and it would be a reasonably priced haircut. I asked for a trim and sat down in the chair. Forty-five minutes later I got in the car and burst into tears. My hair was uneven, awful, and made me look stupid – I think those were my exact sentiments as a 12-year-old. I vowed to never get a “cheap” haircut again. It wasn’t worth it to me to save a few bucks and have a terrible haircut. I felt like I got what I paid for.

Many times in life, it’s easy to feel this way with services we choose or products we purchase. We buy something cheap and when it breaks or doesn’t go according to plan, we blame ourselves for investing in a low quality product in the first place. I understand why people feel like they get what they pay for.  But when it comes to open educational resources, that doesn’t have to be the case. Multiple studies have even found that a majority of the time that isn’t the case.

In one study, 90% of students considered the open textbooks they used as being of the same quality or better than traditional textbooks. I know what you’re thinking But what about the 10% who don’t think it’s as good as or better? That is a very valid concern. Is saving a few hundred bucks worth sacrificing the quality of education? (i.e. is the cheap haircut worth it?) A 2015 study at UC Davis found that students who used an open chemistry textbook did just as well as students who used the traditional textbook. So if learning isn’t compromised and students can take the money that would be spent on the textbook and reinvest in their education or work less hours or take out fewer loans, is it worth it then?

I don’t get my hair cut at fancy salons anymore. I found a place that is actually cheaper than Fantastic Sam’s and better than any salon I’ve been to previously. It took me and my mom a few bad haircuts along the way to find it, but it all worked out. Finding OER that work for a professor might take a little bit of effort, but it’s one of the few times in life you can actually get more than what you pay for.

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