On January 10th Governor Newsom released his budget proposal. In it was a $10 million allocation for the Zero-Textbook Cost Degree program. The program was created in 2016-17 to reduce the overall cost of education for students and decrease the time it takes students to complete degree programs offered by community colleges. “ZTC Degrees” are associates degrees or career technical education certificates comprised entirely of courses that eliminate additional textbook and material fees through the use of high quality, no-cost learning content with an emphasis on open educational resources (OER).

With an initial budget of $5 million, twenty-three community colleges across California developed thirty-three ZTC degrees or Career Technical Education certificates, in the first 2 years of the program. These degree pathways will save 23,000 students over $42 million in textbook costs which is an 8x return on investment. The amount of money saved by students can make a real difference when 7 in 10 California community college students reported being food or housing insecure in the past year.

Not only are students saving money, but their grades are going up thanks to the ZTC Degree program. Colleges have seen a 3.1% increase in grades for all ZTC students, compared to non-ZTC. ZTC programs are also a way to combat the equity issues that persist for students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds. The program boasts a 7.6% increase in grades of Pell recipient ZTC students compared to non-ZTC. There was also a differential effect of ZTC on minority students. Minority students in ZTC courses performed at a higher level than minority students in Non-ZTC courses.

This program has established a strong foundation for growth, and furthered positive impacts for successful student outcomes. With a doubling of the original funding Governor Newsom is investing in ensuring that the cost of textbooks does not impact the educational achievements of California community college students.