South California Community Colleges offer zero cost textbooks to students

photo by Inayaysad, photo edited by Lariat staff

Saddleback and Irvine Valley College students can choose Zero Textbook Costs, also known as ZTC, which is free for students. Faculty has to buy a different non-publisher textbook for cost reasons. These textbooks are referred to as “open educational resources or OER materials, and often in the form of e-books,” professor Major said. 

A faculty member can search for an e-book in the library that is accessible to students for free.  There may also be a rental program available for students for free under the ZTC umbrella. Professors have to find new material because of the transition to ZTC. 

One benefit of ZTC is that professors may alter material to be more culturally relevant and fit for their curriculum. Students have access to the material on the first day of class. Students see their tuition costs decrease due to free textbooks. 

Students don’t need to wait for financial aid to purchase their textbooks due to ZTC. Some textbooks are available online based on physical books called OpenStax. Some faculty members use “remixing” by implementing various resources together and constructing them on a single educational resource.  

Jennifer Pacula, professor of economics, and Nicole Major, professor of Sociology, were the first Saddleback faculty members to implement ZTC back in August 2016. Just six professors were using ZTC back then. Both professors provide ZTC assistance to other faculty members. 

However, ZTC courses are expanding rapidly throughout Saddleback; as of now, “1,287 out of 2,412 (53%) sections are ZTC and 36,383 of 62,913 (58 % enrollments are ZTC),” according to the Saddleback website. 90% of pathways are ZTC according to Saddleback ZTC website. 

Students can find out if their course has ZTC by looking at current classes on MySite. 

OER textbooks are written under a Creative Commons license that allows students to share, use, and build upon what is published. The majority of ZTC books are online. Non-General Ed. courses tend to not have OER. 

Elliot Stern, President of Saddleback College, states that ZTC saves student’s money and textbooks can cost as much as enrollment fees. Students save around $3.5 million through the semester given that each textbook costs around $100. Students save about $8 million throughout the year given their conservative spending habits. 

ZTC encourages lifelong learning by making higher education more accessible. The president mentions how ZTC textbooks are more comprehensible than other textbooks.. “ZTC better aligns with what we learn in a modern era by using online sources and articles on the Internet whenever a question arises,” Stern said.

Students who aren’t instructed through a textbook have a greater opportunity to be engaged in their learning according to Stern. Teaching through a textbook gives the teacher greater control over the class. 

Some classes such as physiology change more frequently than others every year which is a hindrance to the adoption of ZTC. Career educational programs are extremely technical and require a textbook. Stern hopes Saddleback can reach 75% adoption in ZTC in a couple of years. 

Faculty members have to amass resources by packaging them for students for ZTC to occur. Stern believes that Saddleback has to encourage faculty members to switch to the ZTC because courses are changing rapidly. 

In 6 years, Saddleback ZTC courses increased from 6% to 53% by enrollment. Saddleback is a leader in ZTC courses in the state. 

Jennie McCue, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications at Saddleback, ZTC courses are fantastic since they are free to students. They are beneficial to students’ learning, and she would like to see more ZTC courses offered.