Washtenaw Community College students saved $10 million with open resource program

ANN ARBOR – Students have collectively saved $10 million since 2017 with Washtenaw Community College’s free or low-cost textbook alternatives.

Called Open Education Resource (OER), the program helps students save money while studying for certificates, degrees or college credits.

OER materials are offered to students for free, and include textbooks adapted by WCC faculty or other learning materials with no-cost access or public domain access.

“Our mission is to make a positive difference in people’s lives through accessible and excellent educational programs. WCC’s tuition is already among the lowest in the country, and our OER program makes college even more affordable for our students so they are prepared for the workforce or to transfer to a four-year institution,” said WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca in a release.

The college is celebrating Open Education Week this week, March 6-10, by highlighting the monetary impact open resources have had on students.

“Saving $178 is a big deal,” said student Selena Reyes-Burton in the release. “To be honest, if I had to come up with $178 right now, something else might have to go unpaid — like my car insurance or my car loan payment.”

Officials said 7,007 students saved $825,868 during the 2022 Fall semester by signing up for courses using OERs.

Staff at the Ann Arbor community college added more than 20 OER course offerings between 2018 and 2020, helping to ease the financial burden of traditional textbooks.

Officials noted that a 2018 study done in Florida revealed that 43% of students took fewer courses and 64% would skip buying a required textbook altogether due to costs.

“That’s why this new pathway is so important and exciting,” WCC faculty librarian Molly Ledermann said in a release. “When we met and surpassed that initial goal of adding 20 courses within two years, we set a new goal of discovering at least one Z-Degree pathway by 2023 and we were able to do that by the Fall of 2022.”

The OER program isn’t the only way the college helps its students find no-cost alternatives. Faculty are working to adapt materials in math, communications and environmental science, WCC officials said.

The college also now offers a zero textbook cost degree--a “Z-degree”-- and z-certificates and courses. Learn more 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.