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CUNY SPS Makes First Undergraduate “Z Degree” Possible At The City University of New York
Continuing its efforts to be at the forefront of the CUNY-wide initiative to save students money on textbooks by offering Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) online courses, the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) has now made it possible for its bachelor’s degree in communication and media to be completed without students ever purchasing a textbook, making it the first undergraduate “Z Degree” at a CUNY senior college.
CUNY SPS ZTC courses use a mix of Open Educational Resource (OER) textbooks, links to scholarly and professional websites, licensed resources from CUNY library databases, and multimedia or text lectures created by CUNY SPS professors. This semester CUNY SPS is running 133 undergraduate and graduate ZTC sections, and 149 undergraduate and graduate ZTC sections are scheduled for the Winter 2019 and Spring 2019 semesters.
“While every course in the communication and media degree program is not ZTC (yet), all of the required courses are ZTC,” says Dr. Jennifer Sparrow, associate dean of academic affairs and director of general education. “There are also multiple general education ZTC courses from which to choose, and there are enough ZTC electives in the degree program for a student to complete the degree without ever having to purchase a textbook.”
New York State has invested $8 million to promote use of OER in the CUNY and SUNY systems to increase college access and completion rates. CUNY SPS received funding from the CUNY Central Office to sustain and enhance OER efforts at the School.
According to CBS MoneyWatch, the average cost of college textbooks has risen four times faster than the rate of inflation over the past 10 years, causing 65 percent of students to skip buying required texts during their college careers. The College Board recommends that college students budget at least $1,200 per year for textbooks and course supplies, which dramatically increases the cost of attending college.
As of Fall 2018, 34 new, converted, or refreshed ZTC courses were created with CUNY OER funding and have launched, saving CUNY SPS students an estimated $226,000 dollars in textbook costs. Additional course conversions are planned for this year, with a possible second “Z Degree” in liberal studies on the horizon. “The CUNY OER Initiative has been a great opportunity for professors to redesign their courses and save our students money in the process,” says Dr. Sparrow. “I appreciate the willingness of faculty and staff to engage in this important work and I am grateful for the support that CUNY and New York State have provided.”
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