Zero Textbook Cost Courses

The CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) is at the forefront of a CUNY-wide initiative to save students money on textbooks by offering Zero Textbook Cost online courses (Z sections) using Open Education Resources (OER) rather than traditional textbooks.

To increase college access and completion rates by reducing prohibitive textbook costs, New York State has invested $8 million to promote use of OER in the CUNY and SUNY systems. Faculty, librarians, and instructional designers are collaborating to convert courses that currently use expensive publisher textbooks to Z (Zero Textbook Cost) sections. At CUNY SPS, the number of fully online undergraduate Z sections offered by the School has grown from 35 sections in Spring 2017 to 78 sections offered in Spring 2018.   

In lieu of using proprietary textbooks, Zero-Textbook Cost courses employ a mix of OER textbooks, links to scholarly and professional websites, resources from CUNY library databases, and multimedia lectures created by CUNY SPS professors. Faculty say that the OER initiative has produced a truly student-centered approach to online learning.

Read about the many other benefits of OER in this article published by

In Fall 2018 more than 85% of General Education sections at CUNY SPS will be Z sections, with additional course conversions planned for Fall 2018 and the prospect of a 4-year “Z Degree,” which would be the first of its kind at CUNY, on the horizon.


Zero Textbook Cost Sections