Over the past few years, colleges and universities across the country have stepped up to the Zero Textbook Cost Challenge. Courses, majors, and even degree pathways are moving towards closing the achievement gap for traditionally underrepresented groups by adopting Open Education Resources(OER) materials. Open Education @GCC is not afraid to step up! However, we wanted to make sure students were not surprised by course fees and lab fees that many classes have, even when they have adopted a low-cost, no-cost, or OER textbook. So rather than referring to our program as Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC), we have adopted Near-Z at GCC.

Near-Z is the name the Open Education @GCC Committee has given to any course, major, or degree pathway that has adopted low-cost, no-cost, or OER textbooks or materials. These materials may include items provided by the library, adoption of MODPress (Maricopa Open Digital Press) books, OpenStax books, no-cost Canvas courses developed by programs or professors, Creative Commons openly licensed materials, and publisher materials that are under $40.

In 2014, MCCCD became the first college system to incorporate the ability for students to search for low-cost (<$40) and no-cost course materials, including OER and library materials, through the student information system.

If you are a faculty who uses low-cost or no-cost course materials, be sure you are labeling your course for students to find. If you are interested in learning more about the Near-Z@GCC program or want to be sure your low-cost or no-cost class is being recognized for the Near-Z program and course list, reach out to Christine Jones or any member of the Open Education @GCC Committee.

You can also help by showing your students the video below. I recommend introducing your students to the search option at or near priority enrollment, which will be November 8, 2021.

Why Near-Z at GCC?

Fact 1: Examination of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index suggests that the average cost of college textbooks has risen at four times the rate of inflation since 1980.

Graph showing the average cost of college textbooks has risen four times faster than the rate of inflation since 1980.
*From Transforming Educational Practices with Open Educational Resources 2021

Fact 2: National organizations that study undergraduate student budgets estimate that college students need to budget $1440 for books and course materials at a community college.

*From College Board: Average Estimated Undergraduate Budgets 2018-19: https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/average-estimatedundergraduate-budgets-2018-19

With organizations such as UNESCO and SDG4 calling for the expanded use of Open Education, and Departments of Higher Education from several states making OER a priority as a “strategy for providing more affordable, high-quality, accessible, and equitable learning materials as well as approaches to instruction”, Near-Z at GCC is a timely response to a serious issue (Paccione, et al., 2021). In addition, research shows us that OER is a tool to increase “access, equity, equality, inclusiveness” in learning materials and classroom practices, as well as being a catalyst for lifelong and continuous learning (Ossiannilsson, 2019).

Fact 3: Zero Textbook Cost means students do not incur costs, but it doesn’t always mean free.

Zero Textbook Cost to the students does not guarantee no-cost to the institution, such as the fees incurred by subscription databases. To create a ZTC course, instructors might use:

  • Open Educational Resources (OER)
  • Open Access,
  • Creative Commons
  • Public domain materials
  • Teacher-created materials
  • Electronic resources owned or licensed by the GCC Library, ie., articles, documents, films, and more.

By adopting the Near-Z at GCC approach, the Open Education @GCC committee hopes to inspire new adoptions while also helping those who have knowingly or unknowingly already adopted Near-Z to recognize the value and importance of their efforts. We see you!

If you have any questions on how you can participate or are interested in finding out more, please join one of our Open Education (OER) office hours:

If any of the meeting links are not working, please reach out by email and we will be happy to make alternate arrangements.

Paccione, A., et al., (2021). Transforming Educational Practices with Open Educational Resources.

Ossiannilsson, E. (2019). OER and OEP for Access, Equity, Equality, Quality, Inclusiveness, and Empowering Lifelong Learning.

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