Posted by Liz Yata Liz Yata

CA Case StudiesThe California Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) Degree Initiative was launched through a $5 million dollar Governor’s budget allocation in spring 2016 with the goal of reducing costs for community college students by implementing associate transfer degrees and career technical education certificates where all textbook costs have been eliminated through the adoption of alternative instructional materials and methodologies, including open educational resources (OER).

Grants were awarded to 26 colleges to implement 36 ZTC degree pathways. The following case studies are from some of the colleges that participated in the program.

Butte College: How We Saved Students $2 Million in 5 Years

butte-glenn community college district logo

By: Suzanne Wakim, OER Coordinator, OER Initiative Regional Lead: ASCCC, Biology & Honors Faculty and Rachel Arteaga, Associate Faculty Reference & Instruction Librarian

ZTC Degree or Certificate

  • AA-T Degree in Psychology,
  • AA Degree in Social and Behavioral Science
  • AA-T Degree in Child and Adolescent Development
  • Certificate in Early Childhood Development

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We hope to reach as many students as possible with the ZTC Degree initiative which is helping to remove the barriers caused by the high cost of textbooks but particularly for those from marginalized groups such as first-generation students, low-income students, and other student equity populations.

“In the years that we have worked to introduce OER and ZTC degrees to Butte College, we have seen a steady rise in the number of ZTC courses offered. For example, Fall 2015 had 17 sections, 4 classes, and 7 instructors offering ZTC courses. By Fall 2019 there were 227 sections, 73 classes, and 104 instructors offering ZTC courses at Butte College. We wish to grow these numbers steadily as the word spreads, and more resources become available for other courses. We have saved students $2 Million over the past 5 years ($350,000 in Fall of 2019 alone).”

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College of the Canyons: OER Textbooks for Early Childhood Education

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college of canyons logo

By: Jennifer Paris, Faculty Early Childhood Education, and James Glapa-Grossklag, Dean Educational Technology, Learning Resources and Distance Learning

ZTC Degree or Certificate

  • Preschool certificate and core courses for AD-T in Early Childhood Education


Our students often struggle to purchase textbooks. This leads to many not getting the book in a timely manner and falling behind in their courses. A handful will never buy the book and will be forced to try to gain the knowledge and skills without important course content. We feel that providing customized digital textbooks to our students at no cost will help students to succeed.

Lessons Learned: OER creation is very time-consuming. Stipends likely do not adequately compensate for the time that writing OER books requires. Having administrative support, established infrastructure, and hourly staff to support with licensing, permission requests, formatting, copy editing, and attribution building is a helpful resource that allows faculty to focus on content.

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Lake Tahoe Community College: Creating an OER Culture on Campus

author photosLake Tahoe Community College logo

By: Larry Green, Mathematics Instructor, and Melanie Chu, Library Director

ZTC Degree or Certificate

  • Mathematics AS-T


Lake Tahoe is often called “Poverty with a View”. Most of the students are low income and struggle to afford their education.  The publisher-based mathematics textbooks cost between $250 and $350 each. Even if they use an online version of the textbook, the homework system that we used had an access fee of over $100.  This unreasonable cost prevented many of our low-income students from completing their math degrees.

Fortunately, our college culture has changed so that faculty always first look for OER/ZTC when developing a new class.  With the ZTC funding over, there will still be movement to ZTC materials, however, the movement will be slower. I have not heard of one faculty member who moved to ZTC say that they want to go back to an expensive book.

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Pasadena City College: Success through Cross-Campus Collaboration

pasadena city college logo

By: Walter Butler, Librarian

ZTC Degree or Certificate

  • Social and Behavioral Sciences AA


Implementing an OER/ZTC degree pathway was very appealing for various reasons, but at the forefront, it was seen as a means to offset the cost of education for our student population. When we evaluated our data at the time, we saw that more than 22,000 Pasadena City College (PCC) students (77%) received some form of financial assistance.  Of these, 8,925 students received federal Pell Grants, reflecting eligibility based on the family’s need (PCC Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Observations 2014-2015).

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Lessons Learned: The most important thing for us is collaboration across the campus, as this really touches so many areas and it’s important to have those discussions within each one. Because of that, though, the initiative does need leadership – whether an individual or team – that can see how each piece of the machine is and should be working together.   And just like any other worthwhile effort, it takes dedication, time, and a lot of patience.

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Saddleback College: Start to Finish Without Purchasing a Textbook

Saddleback College

By: Nicole Major, Sociology Professor, and Jennifer Pakula, Economics Professor

ZTC Degree or Certificate

  • Associate Teacher Certificate
  • Gerontology Interdisciplinary Certificate

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The Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) Degree initiative is so critical because it reaches all students, regardless of demographics. As we work toward closing equity gaps here on campus and providing free college through the Promise Program, ZTC courses provide one way to eliminate this costly barrier. Disproportionately impacted students are able to start these classes with a textbook on day one. Our institutional research indicates that equity gaps specifically for Latinx students improved dramatically in ZTC courses, with 8% higher success rates for these students in online sections with ZTC.

Faculty Support: Overwhelmingly, faculty surveyed (83%) agreed that ZTC was effective in their courses. Only 6% disagreed. Among non-adopters, 89% said that they either would (15%) or might (74%) use ZTC in the next 3 years.

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Taft College: Implementing an Administration of Justice OER/ZTC Degree

Taft College Logo

By: Tabitha Raber, Administration of Justice, OER/ZTC Grant Director

ZTC Degree or Certificate

  • Administration of Justice AS-T


Tabitha Raber

The OER/ZTC Degree Project at Taft College targeted the Administration of Justice Associate of Science Transfer Degree. This degree program has been offered since 2014 and is a highly sought-after degree program that provides students with the ability to work in the criminal justice field and/or transfer to a four-year university to obtain a bachelor’s degree. This program also provides continuing education for existing law enforcement professionals who seek additional education to enhance and develop their skills for promotion. This degree was chosen because of its high enrollment and the lack of existing OER materials available made it difficult for first-generation and low-income students to purchase their required textbooks.

We have been able to provide students with 43 courses (both in the Administration of Justice and general education courses) which provide significant savings to students who will not be required to purchase textbooks in those courses.

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