TOPEKA (KSNT) – A new initiative at Washburn University aims to save students money by cutting costs associated with buying textbooks for class.

Students at WU will now have the option of participating in Zero Textbook Cost courses which require no primary materials for teaching or learning, such as textbooks. These ZTC courses will be marked by a special icon in the WU course schedule for students interested in taking them. It is estimated that the elimination of textbook costs will save students more than $400,000 during the fall semester alone, according to the WU Center for Student Success and Retention.

“The cost of textbooks can be an added hurdle when it comes to paying for college,” said Dr. Laura Stephenson, interim vice president of academic affairs. “With this initiative we’re working to keep education more affordable for our students while making sure they continue to have access to the same quality course materials.”

Bringing down course costs have been a focus for the past seven years at WU. ZTC courses have become more viable during this time due to Open Educational Resources (OER) which the university uses along with other no-cost alternatives for replacing textbooks. OER includes a variety of digital materials that are available to students under public domain or are openly licensed.

WU became a member of the OER taskforce two years ago after it was created by the Kansas Board of Regents. The task force collects data on methods to save students money and reported that 48% of students in the spring semester of 2019 said they didn’t purchase or rent a required textbook due to cost.

“Washburn is launching ZTC and working with faculty to choose OER materials in an attempt to eliminate a cost barrier for the success of our students,” said Sean Bird, interim dean of the Mabee Library at Washburn University. “We know eliminating this expense equalizes the learning field from day one for all students, collectively raises GPAs and helps students reach their goal of graduation.”

During the first semester of the ZTC initiative, WU offered 589 ZTC courses. The expectation is that faculty will participate in the initiative after seeing the benefits. The intended goal is to have a majority of general education classes adopt ZTC methods by fall 2023.

Tuition and fees at WU were listed at $8,762 per academic year for 2020-2021, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The average cost of books and supplies at Washburn University for full time students who live on campus is projected to be $1,066 for the 2022-2023 academic year, according to the university. A student could potentially save over a thousand dollars per year if they choose all ZTC courses.