OER and Zero Textbook Cost

California's legislature and Community College Chancellor's Office consider OER a primary tool for creating Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) pathways to affordable college degrees and certificates. The following definitions are drawn from CA Ed Code Article 78052.

Open Educational Resources

Open educational resources means high-quality teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released pursuant to an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others, and may include other resources that are legally available and free of cost to students. Open educational resources include, but are not limited to, full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, faculty-created content, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

Zero Textbook Cost Pathways

Zero-textbook-cost degrees means community college associate degrees or career technical education certificates earned entirely by completing courses that eliminate conventional textbook costs by using alternative instructional materials and methodologies, including open educational resources. For purposes of this paragraph, “zero-textbook-cost degrees” may include a low-cost degree option if a no-cost equivalent option is not available or cannot be developed.


Textbook affordability, OER and ZTC legislation

Year Bill Description
2008  Higher Education Opportunity Act Section 133 of this federal act contains textbook provisions. Its aim is to ensure that students have access to affordable course materials and clear information about costs.
2015  College Textbook Affordability Act California Assembly Bill 798 allocated funds to compensate faculty for adopting OER in place of higher-cost course materials. It also funded the establishment of a Digital Open Source Library. 
2016  Donahoe Higher Education Act California Senate Bill 1359 requires California Community Colleges to designate in the online course schedule their courses that use OER and are free-of-charge to students. 
2016  Zero-Textbook-Cost Degree Grant Program Allocates funding and encourages colleges to develop OER and develop pilot programs of Zero-Textbook-Cost (ZTC) degrees.
2021  Postsecondary Education Trailer Bill Requires community colleges to develop a ZTC degree or certificate within 3 academic years; allocates $115 million, a significantly higher amount than previous allocations


ZMC, ZTC, and LTC symbols

In accord with SB 1359, Cuesta has devised the following symbols for inclusion in its online class schedule. 

Zero materials cost has free instructional materials; Zero Textbook Cost has free books but may have other materials charges; Low Cost is less than $50 for student materials costs

Cuesta faculty members who would like to request symbols to mark their courses in the online schedule for Fall 2023 can submit this form

ZTC grant program

Are you interested in developing low-cost pathways to degrees or certificates in your discipline? Under the current (2021) ZTC grant program, Cuesta has been allocated $20,000 for planning to implement at least one ZTC degree or certificate pathway. Please contact Wesley Sims with questions or to initiate a collaboration. 

ZTC at other California community colleges

Saddleback College has been a leader in the ZTC movement, having already developed more than 20 ZTC degrees and certificates. You can find more information on their ZTC webpage.

Cañada College also participated in the ZTC pilot program and has posted their OER/ZTC Implementation Plan for 2022-2027