Zero Cost Textbooks Save Students $8.5 Million

Posted: April 4, 2024

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

ST. PAUL, Minn., April 4, 2024 – Students have saved an estimated $8.5 million through the use of zero-cost textbooks at the colleges of Minnesota State. Ten Minnesota State colleges now offer Z-degrees – entire degree programs which students can complete with zero textbook costs using Open Educational Resources or other no-cost options.

“Over the course of an entire degree program, textbooks can easily cost students thousands of dollars,” said Scott Olson, chancellor of Minnesota state. “Z-degrees and Open Educational Resources significantly reduce the cost of education -- they are another way that the colleges and universities of Minnesota State offer the highest value, most affordable path to an extraordinary education.”

Open Educational Resources are digital textbooks and other educational materials that are freely licensed and available at no cost – potentially saving students thousands of dollars over the course of working towards a degree.

Since its inception in 2020, the use of Open Educational Resources has grown from individual faculty member passion to a cohesive commitment across the Minnesota State system. Currently, 10 Minnesota State colleges offer Z-degrees:

  • Anoka-Ramsey Community College
  • Central Lakes College
  • Century College
  • Lake Superior College
  • Minneapolis College
  • Minnesota North College
  • Minnesota State Community and Technical College
  • Minnesota West Community and Technical College
  • Northland Community and Technical College
  • St. Cloud Technical and Community College

Another six colleges and universities have committed to creating, finalizing, and implementing a new Z-degree by spring of 2026:

  • Inver Hills Community College
  • Minnesota State University, Mankato
  • Minnesota State University Moorhead
  • Ridgewater College
  • Rochester Community and Technical College
  • St. Cloud State University

In addition to saving students a significant amount of money, Z-degrees may also offer other benefits. Students who are struggling to afford college often forego buying expensive textbooks, hoping they can pass the class without them. Century College conducted a study that compared the pass rates of students who enrolled in Z-degree courses to other sections of the same course. The preliminary data showed a 2.8 percent higher pass rate for Z-degree courses. There is also evidence that Z-degree courses may help close the equity gap for students of color, first-generation students, and students who receive Pell grants.


Minnesota State includes 26 community and technical colleges and seven state universities serving approximately 300,000 students. It is the third-largest system of two-year colleges and four-year universities in the United States