Sep 15, 2022 – Consultation Council Meeting – Social Determinants of Educational Success Ecosystem: A Deep Look at Zero Textbook Cost

Agenda Item Details

Meeting – Sep 15, 2022 – Consultation Council Meeting

Category – Agenda Items

Subject – Social Determinants of Educational Success Ecosystem: A Deep Look at Zero Textbook Cost

Type – General

“Digest” means an item has been through internal review by the Chancellor’s Office and the review entities. The item now has form and substance and is officially “entered into Consultation.” The Consultation Council reviews the item and provides advice to the Chancellor.


Marty J. Alvarado, Executive Vice Chancellor of the Equitable Student Learning, Experience, and Impact Office

Rebecca Ruan-O’Shaughnessy, Vice Chancellor of Educational Services and Support


This item provides an update on the California Community Colleges’ approach to the implementation of the Social Determinants for Educational Success framework through the lens of the Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) program.

Historically, the focus of the ZTC program has been the scaling of open education resources (OER) intended to improve college affordability by reducing the cost associated with the purchase of textbooks. When filtered through a Social Determinants framework the opportunities go beyond affordability and OER, centering on structural access inequities related to required instructional materials. Realizing the Vision for Success and maintaining an intentional focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility requires a review of the foundational assumptions related to required instructional materials and the resulting set of solutions. 


In 2016, the Budget Act appropriated $5 million in one-time funding to establish the Zero-Textbook-Cost Degree Grant Program (“the ZTC Program”). This authorized the Chancellor’s Office to disperse competitive grants to “community college districts that meet specified criteria for developing and implementing associate degrees and career technical education certificate programs earned entirely by completing courses that eliminate conventional textbook costs by using alternative instructional materials and methodologies, including open educational resources.” The legislative intent for the ZTC Program was to reduce the overall cost of education for students and decrease the time it takes to complete degree programs. Over the three years that the ZTC Program was active, the Chancellor’s Office awarded 43 grants (18 for Planning and 25 for Implementation) directly to colleges. As a result of the investment, the colleges that received implementation grants reported developing 404 ZTC courses in various disciplines and 19 colleges reported developing 37 ZTC programs. Colleges also reported that an estimated 31,000 students enrolled in ZTC course offerings during this time period. The strength of this pilot program resulted in an additional investment in 2021, with the Budget Act providing a $115 million one-time investment in the ZTC program. 

Foundational to the ZTC Program has been the development, adoption, and scaling of open educational resources (OER). OER are educational materials that anyone can use, customize, and share at no cost and are available through an open license. In 2018, the Academic Senate for the California Community Colleges received $6 million in one-time state funding to support the development and use of OER. Adoption of OER materials for a course or program enables faculty to provide free instructional materials to all students enrolled in the course. These materials are typically provided in an electronic format. However, in order to view and meaningfully use the materials, students need to have regular access to hardware (e.g., laptops, mobile devices), software (e.g., program license, access codes), and broadband connection.

A ZTC Program that Supports Unconditional Belonging

The Board’s September 2020 Resolution Declaring Support for Student Basic Needs ($file/board-resolution-2020-21-declaring-support-for-student-basic-needs-a11y.pdf) committed “to dismantling the current structures that unduly burden students in need, limiting their access to critical basic resources.” The ZTC Program presents a unique opportunity for the System to operationalize this commitment by:

  • Evaluating the ways in which a program-centric approach, while helpful, still burdens students and limits access to required instructional materials; and
  • Identifying student-centered structural changes to create a more equitable support infrastructure for both students and practitioners.

A student-centered approach requires a holistic view of the student experience related to accessing required instructional materials. It evaluates the policies, assumptions, and suite of support services to understand the student experience and how these structures impact student enrollment, progress, and ultimately the social determinants of educational success – financial stability, health and mental health, and social networks.

The ZTC Program, as intended, successfully provided a proof-of-concept pilot that demonstrated the ability for campuses to adopt low-cost and no-cost textbook options. It also pointed to the potential positive impact for students who are able to access courses where the required instructional materials are provided with minimal financial, administrative, or psychological friction points. Given the success of the pilot, the most significant student-centered shift required in this strategy is the acknowledgement that accessing instructional materials that are necessary for successful engagement in and completion of the students’ courses should not be optional and should not place inequitable burdens on students that lack the financial resources to obtain these necessary materials. A singular focus on implementing the ZTC Program in its previous pilot form leaves the current inequitable structures in place, incentivizing optional solutions that are not sustainable or scaled.

Faculty and staff participating in the development and adoption of OER materials are often generating their own instructional content, researching existing OER, adapting materials based on student feedback and experiences, and improving access to print or alternative formats. This investment of time and resources is an ongoing endeavor and strengthens the learning environment. Building from the successful ZTC Program pilot, the California Community Colleges will need to evaluate the structural changes required to expand access to all students while also building the infrastructure required to sustain the scaled adoption of OER materials.

2022-23 Student-Centered ZTC Implementation Plan

Supporting an intentional student-centered approach that prioritizes unconditional belongings for all students requires a holistic ZTC strategy oriented around an act-learn-change cycle.

1. ACT: Design the ZTC Program and Distribute Program Funding with intentionality

In the Budget Act of 2021-22, the Legislature appropriated $115 million, one-time funding to the ZTC program to reduce the overall cost of education and decrease the time to completion for California community college students (Education Code Section 78050-78052( The Chancellor’s Office will distribute the program funding in phases to support colleges in developing and implementing ZTC degree and certificate programs.

Phase 1: ZTC Planning for 115 Colleges (Total disbursement – $2.3 million) — Grants in the amount of $20,000 were awarded to 115 colleges to begin planning the development and implementation of a ZTC degree or certificate program.

Phase 2: Expedited ZTC program development and implementation (Total disbursement – $5 million) — In this competitive request for applications, colleges are encouraged to develop and implement ZTC degree or certificate programs that are close to completion, will be ready for students by Fall 2024, and can be completed with the least amount of funding.

Phase 3: ZTC Implementation for 115 Colleges (Total disbursement $20.7 million) — Every college that received a Planning grant will receive $180,000 to develop and implement at least one ZTC program that was identified in Phase 1.

Subsequent grant phases will be informed by the projects developed, creation and curation of OER for courses and the needs of the district and colleges.

2. Learn: Develop and strengthen the ZTC data infrastructure

In May 2022, with the close partnership of the Academic Senate for the California Community Colleges, the Chancellor’s Office implemented the new XB12: Instructional Materials Cost data element ( in the Management Information System as an initial infrastructure-building step to collect systemwide data on instructional material costs. As part of their data submissions each term, colleges will report on how they made instruction materials for each course section available to students. The new data from these submissions will help bring the California Community Colleges closer to understanding the various strategies institutions use to make course section no or low cost.

3. Change: ZTC State Taskforce to develop recommendations for structural system changes

Acknowledging that access to necessary instructional materials is critical for student enrollment, persistence and completion and that the existing structure is inequitable and undermines student success, the Chancellor’s Office will convene a ZTC taskforce of systemwide representatives, open educational resources partners, and students to evaluate the full existing textbook support infrastructure. The taskforce will inform a  set of recommendations to address structural changes and system supports that will facilitate the creation of sustainable solutions that reduce textbook costs for all students. Urgency for this work to be completed by May 2023 will be the goal.

Feedback/Questions for Council

This digest item is presented to the Consultation Council for information and discussion. 



This above was accessed from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office at on September 13, 2022.