Open Educational Resources Can Make Your Degree Cheaper

Santa Ana College students searching for cheaper alternatives to their classes may be able to earn their degree through Open Educational Resources and Zero Textbook Cost classes.
Illustration by Dennis Guirola / elDon


Santa Ana College students searching for cheaper alternatives to their educational fees now can earn their associates degree through Open Educational Resources (OER) and Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) classes.

SAC faculty started using OER and ZTC materials such as open-source textbooks, publically available videos and online articles in 2008. They help keep college affordable using teaching and learning materials that are free for public use.

Between the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters, SAC added over 50 OER classes. As of now, there are about 300 OER and ZTC courses available each semester, including many general education classes.

“A lot of our students don’t have the means to be able to pay for their tuition and their textbooks, and this allows them to have the money for another class,” SAC’s Distance Education Coordinator Cherylee Kushida said.

At SAC, a full-time student enrolling in 12 units can expect to pay about $550 in tuition alone each semester, without additional costs. When including books and supplies, students spend about another $900, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

With tuition and supply costs combined, students pay an estimated $3,000 per year. The price of textbooks and materials has increased gradually since the 2014-2015 school year, costing $1,740 only four years ago.

OER classes mitigate costs, either charging small fees to maintain the websites hosting classroom tools or opting out of textbooks entirely.

Several student resources are also available immediately, allowing them to begin the semester on track. OER resources encourage convenience, allowing faculty to alter, share and reuse materials each semester with their students and peers.

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“Classes are very affordable so you don’t have to spend too much money. The teachers are very helpful because they provide resources from their own time,” said SAC freshman Elena Mendez.

In 2016, SAC was one of 38 schools nationwide to earn a grant by the Achieving the Dream Open Educational Resources Degree Initiative. The grant, given based on a school’s ability to implement and maintain these programs, funded the school’s OER degree pathways. Through these new opportunities, students can earn their Business Administration associate’s degree transfer or their Liberal Arts associates degree in five semesters.

Through a separate $150,000 grant, Santa Ana was one of 20 California community colleges to receive money to fund new ZTC degree pathways. Under these degree programs, which remove traditional textbook costs and apply open educational materials, students can now also earn an associates degree in physics or a certificate to be a biotechnology laboratory technician.

Each semester’s OER courses are searchable through Webadvisor by typing “Open Educational Resource” in the “Section Type” drop-down menu.



Additional reporting by Jason Solares.

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