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Trine expanding programs, degrees featuring no-cost textbooks

In a 2018 survey cited in Inside Higher Education, 43 percent of college students nationwide reported they had skipped meals in order to afford college textbooks.

New degree programs and courses at Trine University will allow such students to eat again.

Trine University’s Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership and Lou Holtz Master of Science in Organizational Leadership programs, both offered through TrineOnline, allow students to complete those degrees without paying for textbooks in their core courses or a large portion of their degree coursework.

Keirsten Eberts, assistant vice president for TrineOnline, said Z degrees, the national designation for such programs, utilize other resources that work as well as expensive printed materials.

“The core courses utilize Open Educational Resources (OER), library databases and faculty-developed content and/or zero-cost resources,” she said.

Trine also offers 46 individual courses online that feature OER — openly licensed assets used for teaching and learning — and other no-cost resources in place of costly textbooks. These courses are identified as OER when students register for classes.

With textbook costs averaging about $140 for each course, Eberts said total savings for the Trine student body could reach nearly $200,000 per semester, just with the existing courses.

“Student loan debt is a pressing national issue, and many families are facing uncertain times due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Eberts said. “Reducing or eliminating textbook costs is one of the many ways Trine University helps students incur less debt to complete their degrees.”

The university has been working to build OER courses and Z degrees for about a year, and will monitor usage and outcomes for students who complete these courses. According to OERdegrees.org, research has found that utilizing OER materials instead of commercial textbooks results in improved completion rates and better grades for students.

“We are confident that, as we continue to refine our OER courses and materials, we will see increased positive student outcomes,” Eberts said. “As we move forward and develop more OER courses and Z degrees, TrineOnline is looking forward to expanding upon its leadership in this area.”