Zeroing In: CRC Eyes Textbook-Free Future with Access-Focused Initiative

Cosumnes River College Zero Textbook Cost Initiative

Don’t make students choose between textbooks and taco night.

That’s the philosophy fueling Cosumnes River College’s Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) Initiative, a push to defray costs and put more “me money” back in the pockets of Sacramento-area college students.

This program affords students the opportunity to attend courses and even degree and certificate programs, ideally never spending a dime on textbooks. 

“The ultimate goal for the college is to become a Zero Textbook Cost college, so that students won’t have to purchase textbooks at all,” says Andi Adkins-Pogue, Librarian at Cosumnes River College, and spearhead for the Zero Cost Textbook initiative. Pogue also serves as Chair of the Affordable Educational Resources Committee at CRC, which strives to reduce material costs in order to improve student success. 

Thanks to essential Strong Workforce Program funding, ZTC will soon embark on its second year at CRC. The initiative’s origins began after the college started receiving Covid relief money and CRC President, Dr. Edward Bush, had the idea to use the funds to create a more long-lasting change for current and future students. 

“[Dr. Bush] wanted to use that money in a way that was not only immediately impactful for the current round of students, but something that would have a lasting impact,” reflects Adkins-Pogue. “We made a lot of progress in the first year.” 

In Fall of 2021, there were 162 ZTC sections in session at Cosumnes River College. As of Spring 2023, there are more than 700 courses participating in the Zero Textbook Cost initiative. Adkins-Pogue notes, “It was tremendous the amount of faculty buy-in we got, and I think part of that was due to having somebody working on this full time.”

Strong Workforce Funds help support the faculty who assist in converting CRC courses into Zero Textbook Cost classes. These instructors purchase textbooks for courses while creating and curating available open educational resources like educational journals, videos, lab manuals, and more. 

“When those [educational resources] aren’t available or when it’s impossible … like, some of our English writing programs, they might want to be using a novel,” explains Adkins-Pogue. “That’s never going to be an open educational resource. So, we worked with faculty to try to provide books in those cases, and that was the case in our CTE programs.” 

CRC pathways featuring Zero Textbook Cost courses include agriculture, arts and media, design technology, business and computer science, health and human services, science, and math and engineering. With the ZTC initiative continuing to support these individual courses, CRC is looking to pave a pathway for entire degree and certificate programs to be completed, totally free of textbook costs. 

Among the first pathways at CRC to achieve ZTC status was the college’s Automotive Department, with the Fire Tech and Horticulture and Plant Science programs not far behind.  

“Based on our institution’s student demographics, our Automotive Department has been cognizant of the impacts and consequences of textbook costs for many years,” notes Brian Noel, Automotive Technology Professor and Welding Department Chair. “Even after significantly reducing the number of texts used across the program, and allowing the use of older editions whenever possible, we still found that many students were unable to obtain the necessary text before the start of the course.” 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of books and supplies for a first-year college student was $1,226 from 2020 to 2021. Meanwhile, CRC data from that same year shows that students spent about $340 on course materials, including textbooks. 

“By making our program Zero Textbook Cost, we have ensured that every student in our program has access to the necessary materials on the first day of class, and throughout each course they take in our program,” continues the Automotive professor. 

“Many of our students are already juggling various responsibilities while trying to further themselves through our courses and programs, so providing a zero textbook cost program allows us to remove at least one obstacle/burden for our students to help support their success.” 

The initiative promotes success for both students and the College itself. Since last Spring, enrollment at Cosumnes River College has jumped more than 8.3 percent thanks to continuous changes on the campus, including the addition of more widely-available ZTC courses. These courses and programs are helping current students save money while removing a persistent barrier to attendance for prospective students. 

Noel notes that his recent experience at career fairs and recruiting events prove that prospective students are taking notice as the department goes above and beyond to provide accessibility. 

“When students and parents begin to compare what we have to offer with very little financial investment, versus what is offered by private post-secondary institutions for $40-50K or more, our programs become a clear winner,” says the proud professor. “Our primary goal is student success. Not only within their courses and programs, but as they transition into the Automotive industry itself.”

As the Zero Textbook Cost initiative continues to grow at CRC, Noel is confident the Automotive Department is providing students with the best value of education possible. 

“Beyond the technical competence, soft skills, and professionalism that we try to instill in our students, getting started in the automotive industry generally also means an investment in tools by the student,” concludes the instructor. “By removing textbook costs and breaking down other financial barriers within our programs and institution, we help to ensure our students are on a sustainable path to success within their chosen profession.” 

Ready to learn more about ZTC courses and programs at CRC? Visit the Zero Textbook Cost webpage for additional information.

July 2023