What is the Z-Degree program?
A three-year plan to expand adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER) in Mississippi public higher education. OER are course materials, including textbooks, which are free and shareable.
How does the program work?
When faculty adopt OER for their courses, those courses are tagged as “Z-Degree” on the course schedule, indicating that they have “zero textbook cost.” Once enough courses are designated Z-Degree, it is possible for students to earn a degree with no textbook costs.
Which secondary education institutions are involved?
Participants include all eight Mississippi public universities and all of Mississippi’s public HBCUs:
- University of Mississippi,
- Alcorn State University,
- Delta State University,
- Jackson State University,
- Mississippi State University,
- Mississippi University for Women,
- Mississippi Valley State University,
- University of Southern Mississippi;
As of Spring 2018, we also have reached nine of Mississippi’s 15 community colleges:
- East Mississippi Community College;
- Northeast Mississippi Community College;
- Itawamba Community College;
- Hinds Community College;
- Mississippi Delta Community College;
- Coahoma Community College;
- Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College;
- Pearl River Community College;
- Northwest Mississippi Community College.
And we hope to be on all of the community college campuses by January 2019.
Z-Degree Mississippi is funded by $650,000 in grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and $200,000 in grants from the University of Mississippi.
When does the program end?
Z-Degree Mississippi started in June 2016, and is currently funded through 2020.
Why fund a Z-Degree program?
Cost is a key driver. An estimated third to two-thirds of students no longer purchase textbooks nationwide (PIRG). As our recent story noted, a new copy of the required text at the community college bookstore for Legal Environment of Business, Business Law Today, sells for $413.00. By comparison, a Mississippi resident who enrolled in Legal Environment of Business would pay $450 in tuition. But improved teaching and learning outcomes are also motivating factors as faculty find greater engagement with their courses and students enjoy course materials which they know contain only information selected by their teachers. And administrations find that when students are less likely to drop a course, they experience greater course through-put rates, persist, and graduate at higher numbers.
Access is the goal. Many students are delaying buying textbooks or not buying them at all because they are too expensive. This puts these students at a disadvantage from the very beginning of the semester. Even students who can afford textbooks will not buy them because they view them as overpriced by sellers and underutilized by faculty. As long as a student has access to the internet, OER textbooks are always free, never backordered, and available whenever students need them.
What are the results?
Since 2016, Mississippi institutions have saved students $3,750,000.00 in textbook costs.
Want to learn more about Z-Degree programs, goals, and funding? Read TJ Bliss’s 2015 article on the Hewlett Foundation’s website, Z as in zero: Increasing college access and success through zero-textbook-cost degrees.