New initiative lowers college costs for students

M State is embarking on a new cost-saving initiative for students and their families. The initiative is expected to not only increase the affordability of M State—which already has one of the lowest tuition rates of any two-year college in Minnesota—but also bolster student equity, retention, completion and overall success rates.

Most college-bound students cite cost and their likelihood of success as two top concerns, and this initiative addresses both. M State has signed on for a yearlong engagement with the Institute on Open Educational Resources, a national effort to expand the use of free or nearly-free textbooks and other instructional materials in higher education. M State is one of 48 institutions across the country to participate in the 2023-24 institute.

“OER courses are becoming an integral part of our student success initiatives at M State,” said Alicia Carley, Dean for the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Our college has already done some work in OER, but we are looking to create a more robust catalog of offerings. The guidance provided by the institute will allow us to expedite this plan as well as generate a sustainability plan so we can continue these efforts well into the future.”

Coordinated by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Institute on Open Educational Resources (OERs) brings expert consultants together with local campus teams for frequent virtual events, meetings and mentorships as the colleges plan and implement the best OER strategies for their students.

OERs are educational materials—from single lessons to entire textbooks—that are free for teachers and students to use. 

M State’s OER team is made up of faculty leaders, librarians, campus store coordinators and marketing and IT professionals. As participants in the Institute on OERs, they’re working on expanding M State’s selection of Zero Textbook Cost Degree Programs, or Z-Degrees. Z-Degrees are known to save students about $2,000 a year, and it’s the OER team’s goal to get more M State faculty involved in the creation and adoption of these money-saving programs and courses so that more students can benefit.

“The OER institute will serve as a mechanism for us to create a cross-functional team of OER advocates,” says Marsha Weber, Dean of Extended Learning. “By removing barriers for students, this team will help improve and accelerate M State’s impact on affordability, equitability, student success and cultural responsiveness.”