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KPU creates second program with no textbook costs

It brings grief to nearly all post-secondary students this time of year: after paying thousands of dollars for tuition, exorbitant costs for textbooks roll in next.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University. File Photo

It brings grief to nearly all post-secondary students this time of year: after paying thousands of dollars for tuition, exorbitant costs for textbooks roll in next.

Hoping to help ease the financial burden for some of its students, Kwantlen Polytechnic University has launched its second program with no textbook costs.

 Now, along with the certificate in arts, the university has added the adult graduation diploma to the “Zed Cred” program. The “Z” in “Zed” stands for zero textbook costs, while the “cred” refers to the possibility of completing all academic credits in the specified program.

“Kwantlen has been the leading adopter of open textbooks and other open educational resources for many years so there’s a lot of interest and support within the KPU community,”  KPU’s special advisor to the provost on open education, Rajiv Jhangiani, told the Richmond News, adding that the first Zed Cred programs only began this past January.

“Cost savings, course performance and (lower) withdrawal rates is where we’ve seen the impact so far.”

According to Jhangiani, 54 per cent of post-secondary students in B.C. do not purchase the required textbooks for their courses, while 26 per cent choose to not register for a course because of textbook costs.

“What was worse, was that we found that these students who were making these choices were disproportionately likely to be students who hold a student loan, those who are self-identifying as visible minorities and those who are first to attend university in their family.

“So it really for us underscored that this is not just a problem, but this is a problem that’s affecting students who are already marginalized the most.”

For BCcampus, which gave KPU a $35,000 grant to help run its Zed Cred program, this added burden on marginalized students can not only lead to academic struggles, but personal ones too.

“When you can’t afford to purchase something, you’re just heightening one’s own anxiety, you’re feeling less-than as it is, you’re feeling a sense of shame that you don’t have what the rest of the kids in the class have,” said Amanda Coolidge, senior manager of open education with BCcampus.

“We want students to come in on day one and feel welcome and feel like their education matters, to feel cared for, to feel like access is important…it comes down to creating a more inclusive learning environment for students.” 

BCcampus, an organization that supports B.C.’s post-secondary schools in evolving their teaching methods, has been advocating for open education resources – or freely available textbooks, toolkits and other learning materials – since 2012.

“Open materials of any kind…is just the right of the public. Anything that’s publicly funded should be publicly available,” said Coolidge, explaining that open textbooks don’t just enable students to access them for free, but also allows instructors to cater materials to their specific course. 

“With an open textbook, the faculty member has the opportunity to make revisions as needed, based on the needs of their students and also revisions based on the learning outcomes.”

While it’s difficult to assess just how much students are paying for materials – especially since many students now opt to share, borrow or even download items to save money – BCcampus estimates its collection of nearly 260 open materials has saved students more than $9 million.

New to the Zed Cred program using open resources, KPU’s adult education graduation diploma enables adult learners to complete their grade 12 equivalency credits to earn their Dogwood Certificate.

“Textbook costs have been a consistent financial barrier to achieving a degree for many of us students,” said student Murdoch de Mooy in a press release.

“The Zed Cred program is an amazing initiative that helps alleviate the incredibly variable costs of textbooks every semester, while maintaining quality education throughout our entire degree pathway.”