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Mesabi Range introduces zero textbook cost degree program

Posted 11/25/20

REGIONAL- True to its mission of preparing diverse learners for fulfilling careers, college transfer, and lives of intellectual curiosity and discovery, Mesabi Range College announces the launch of …

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Mesabi Range introduces zero textbook cost degree program

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REGIONAL- True to its mission of preparing diverse learners for fulfilling careers, college transfer, and lives of intellectual curiosity and discovery, Mesabi Range College announces the launch of its Z-Degree (zero textbook cost) program.
Beginning fall semester 2020, students at Mesabi Range College will be able to earn their Associate of Arts (AA) degree without the additional cost of textbooks for Z-Degree designated courses.
Z-Degree programs have been gaining attention in the world of higher education since they were first introduced in 2014. Faculty members leverage the availability and flexibility of open-education resources (OERs), copyright-free materials, and faculty-developed resources to reduce or eliminate completely textbook costs for students.
The movement to bring the Z-Degree program to Mesabi Range College started over three years ago when a student confided to communication studies instructor Emily Werschay that he could not afford both the required textbook for the class and the gas money to travel home. “I realized that I didn’t want a textbook to be the reason a student couldn’t afford to go home or buy groceries,” Werschay said.
What followed was a lot of energy expended in writing grants, developing an online faculty resource repository, and working with faculty who were redesigning their courses with OERs or other copyright-free materials. Werschay submitted a proposal for a Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Innovation Fund Grant that addressed “obstacles to student success by using existing technologies, resources, or practices in innovative ways.” As a result, the college was awarded a $25,000 grant in 2017, followed by a $10,000 grant in 2018. In 2019, Mesabi Range College was one of only six colleges in the state awarded $100,000 to finalize the Z-Degree initiative.
“Redesigning courses with OERs takes a significant amount of time and work, but nearly half of our faculty are now involved,” Werschay explained. “This project reduces the financial burden for students, which allows them a greater opportunity for academic success,” she said.

With some publishers selling books for up to $250 for a course, the cost savings for students are significant. To learn more or enroll for fall courses, visit mesabirange.edu.

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