PCC students can look forward to completing their degree while spending $0 on textbooks, thanks to the $35,000 state fund from the zero-textbook-cost degree (Z-Degree).

Inspired by TideWater Community College’s (TCC) associate of science in business administration, the first degree to fully rely on open educational resources (OER), Achieving the Dream funded five million dollar to 38 community colleges nationwide in the last fiscal year to create similar pathways for degrees, in which all classes’ material are OER based so students spend nothing on books. The state’s governor 2016-2017 budget also proposed a five million dollars grant for each California community college (CCC) that is able to provide a detailed plan of OER implemented courses that lead to Z-Degree.

According to TCC’s research with Lumen Learning, the Z-Degree reportedly will save each student about $2,500 for his or her college cost, decreasing dropout rates and encouraging more graduates.

PCC OER’s team is excited to implement the Z-Degree into the school system. After the initial $35,000 planning grant, PCC’s OER coordinator Walter Butler hopes the team will be able to put Z-Degree in action as soon as next semester, while continuing to apply for the additional $150,000 implantation grant.

The school has nine months, from January to September, to submit their final Z-Degree plan to the Chancellor’s office of CCC.

“We are confident of our process so far.” Butler said, “I’m excited about it but I know it’s also going to be challenging as we start looking at how to fit the courses in place.”

Butler explained that in order to work out a degree in which all classes use OER material, they need to figure out what IGETC sections are available with OER. If the required section has no OER, the team has to create extra common core classes with online instruction material. Based on the required common core, they will then create more pathways to certificates with only OER-utilized certificates. 

“We have a lot happening right now, [such as] the PCC Promise with the free-tuition program for the high school, [and] degrees where they don’t have to pay for the textbooks,” Butler said, “There will be a lot of buzzes, a lot of questions, but it will be good.”

Z-Degree, however, is not a privilege for every student. As the degrees’ resources are completely Internet and resources base, there could be many challenges for both the OER team and the students who is going to utilize it.

“The Governor’s proposal to fund the creation of CCC zero–textbook–cost degrees has potential to improve both affordability and student success.” The Legislative Analyst’s office stated in the ZTCDegree proposal in 2016-2017’s budget, “It is not, however, best designed to promote broad and long–term impact across the CCC system and the state’s other higher education systems.”

One of the other big concerns about Z-Degree fund is its sustainability. Since the fund is only offered once, creating and expanding OER based classes to other majors’ degrees is one of the top priorities for all the schools that qualified for the grant.

“How long would this last? How many more students can it help?” Butler stated one of his concerns about OER courses’ sustainability for the OER team.

Achieving the Dream’s funds the 38 community college to create a bigger online resource database, and it hopes that after 3 years, the database will be available to all the students from all other schools that need the resources, according to EdSurge.

“This is the best thing that we can do for our students, and the state is encouraging colleges to create a degree that will be available under OER for all students,” PCC President-Superintendent Dr. Rajen Vurdien said. “If you’re a California resident, you’ll have to pay $590 for your tuition, then an additional $400 for your books, and that’s just not fair.”


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