Glendale Community College (GCC) is taking charge of enhancing student awareness and engagement with Zero and Low Textbook Cost (ZTC and LTC), via a Michelson Spark Grant. This project seeks to explore whether the method used to mark ZTC and LTC courses in PeopleSoft, GCC’s Student Information System (SIS) influences student behavior in student enrollment and overall awareness of the availability of the courses. 

Increasing Student Awareness After Eight Years of ZTC and LTC Courses 

Since Fall 2018, GCC has been marking ZTC and LTC courses in PeopleSoft with the goal of providing students with affordable course options. Despite these efforts and a dedicated student-facing guide available at, student awareness of the 700+ courses remains low. The current system marks ZTC and LTC courses using a text-based “course attribute” visible only on the class detail page, not in the initial search results. Additionally, students are limited to searching for one course attribute at a time, which lessens the utility of these labels. 

Proposed Improvements to PeopleSoft and a First-of Its Kind Analysis 

The Spark Grant will fund critical improvements to the SIS so that it includes image-based markers for ZTC and LTC courses directly in the search results page. By doing so, students will be able to see at a glance which courses offer zero or low-cost textbooks. They will also have the ability to search for both textbook cost and transfer eligibility simultaneously.

Once the improvements are implemented, GCC will partner with their Institutional Research team to analyze student enrollment patterns and incorporate questions into their annual student survey. This study, which will reach approximately 10K students, will pioneer research into how the method of course marking impacts enrollment and awareness. 

“I’m proud we live in a state with some of the strongest textbook cost course marking laws in the country, ” Cailyn Nagle, Senior OER Program Manager said. “GCC is choosing to not only go above and beyond the base requirements, but is prioritizing the student experience. They are addressing the issues students face, and their study  has the potential to increase ZTC effectiveness across the state. We can’t wait to see what research follows!”

Scalability Across 26 Campuses and Beyond

Currently, 26 California Community Colleges use PeopleSoft, which means that GCC’s findings and technical implementations could benefit many institutions facing similar challenges. PeopleSoft is also widely used outside of the CCCs, offering the potential for national scalability. 

GCC’s Commitment to OER 

GCC has a strong track record of promoting OER, serving over 65K students and saving them an estimated $7.8M over the past eight years. We look forward to continuing to partner with GCC as they serve their 15K+ students with a strong ZTC program and expanded price transparency.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation working toward equity for underserved and historically underrepresented communities by expanding access to educational and employment opportunities, increasing affordability of educational programs, and ensuring the necessary supports are in place for individuals to thrive. To do so, we work in the following verticals: Digital Equity, Intellectual Property, Smart Justice, Student Basic Needs, and Open Educational Resources (OER). Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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