Washtenaw Community College: Students saved nearly $9M with free online textbooks

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Students at Washtenaw Community College (WCC) have saved almost $9 million thanks to free online textbooks.

The Ann Arbor-based college started its zero-cost textbook program, called Open Education Resources, in 2017.

Since then, 47 courses offer the free textbook program saving students hundreds of dollars.

In the decade between 2006-2016, textbooks prices rose almost 90%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The cost of a semester’s-worth of textbooks, between $300-$500 for some students, can cost more than WCC’s in-district credit hour cost, the school said.

“It’s no easy feat to develop a quality free online textbook to cover all the content standards for a class,” said WCC professional librarian Molly Ledermann in a release. “Faculty members work in cohorts with librarians, developing original content, scouring open resources, mixing and matching graphics and other types of information, and navigating through the issues of attributions and copyrights.”

Ledermann leads the two-year college’s Bailey Library OER faculty cohorts.

“We are committed to providing an excellent education for all students, no matter their socioeconomic background. Our growing OER efforts help tremendously with affordability, and students can be assured that the quality and content of the materials is exceptional,” says WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca.

WCC’s free textbook program is one of three programs showcased by Michigan OER Network, officials said.

Officials noted that students across 752 science and math courses from Fall 2019 to Winter 2022 saved $2.97 million. But it’s not only students who are impacted, WCC educators can provide students with materials for the entire semester.

“One of the amazing things about WCC is our faculty are passionate about their students and they want to save them money. They see the choices students have to make between buying a pair of glasses or fixing a car or purchasing a textbook,” said Ledermann in a release.

Currently, Washtenaw Community College has four no-cost text business certificates and plans to soon offer zero-cost textbook “Z Degrees” associate degrees, officials said.

Two additional certificates are anticipated to launch in the fall.

Learn more about the Open Education Resources program here.

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.