July 27, 2020
July 27, 2020 – This fall Northland Community & Technical College will launch a new program initiative to make the cost of a traditional Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree even more affordable. Known as the Z-Degree, the program will use no-cost electronic textbooks and educational materials to allow students to earn an A.A. without having to pay for textbooks. Because textbooks can account for over 15 percent of college costs, the Z-Degree could save students as much as $2,000.
Northland is part of an aggressive campaign outlined in The State of Minnesota 91st legislative session, which directed Minnesota State colleges and universities to expand Z-Degree opportunities across the state by the 2020-2021 academic year.
With the cost of tuition, fees, and textbooks at an all-time high nationwide, any initiative that alleviates some of the financial burdens is a welcome respite. Northland’s Z-Degree will have students saving around $2,000 on the cost of their A.A. degree. This cost savings is significant, considering Northland’s tuition and fees are among the lowest in the state, averaging about $5,700 annually.
“While cost is just one obstacle for students – the use of OER removes more than just cost as the materials are available for students from day one in a course,” explains Brian Huschle, Northland Provost, “This removes another common barrier for students who have trouble financially acquiring course materials to get off to a great start in a class.”
Northland’s Z-Degree utilizes Open Educational Resources (OER), which replaces traditional textbooks with digital files that are available online at no charge. OER are teaching, learning, and research resources as well as textbooks, videos, texts, software, tools, and materials residing in the public domain or that have been released under an intellectual property license permitting their free use. These materials were originally shared among teaching professionals for course and professional development, but have moved beyond that realm and are widely assigned by faculty as class materials.
“OER Materials are very often professionally developed and published, just without licensing and publisher charges involved,” points out Huschle, “Moreover, faculty are able to customize these materials to fit the specific topics within their courses.”
Four defined pathways are fully integrated into Northland’s Z-Degree program. Liberal Arts & Science A.A., History transfer pathway A.A., Sociology transfer pathway A.A., Economics transfer pathway A.A. After receiving one of these degrees, Northland graduates will have the ability to transfer these credits seamlessly to any university. These cost savings will impact even students not exploring a Z-Degree program. Students studying liberal arts classes as part of other programs at Northland will also be able to register for Z-Degree courses. This initiative has the potential to eliminate some textbook costs for most Northland students.
For more information about the Northland’s Z-Degree program, answers to frequently asked questions; and details for the steps to apply can be found at www.northlandcollege.edu/zdegree.