Chico Affordable Learning Solutions (CAL$)


The Purpose of Lowering Course Materials Costs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was a 1,041% percent increase(opens in new window) in textbook prices from January 1977 to June 2015. 

Graph of increasing expenses over time

At Chico State, nearly half our students report food insecurity, and many experience homelessness (10.9% reported in 2019), making course materials difficult to obtain. In a February 2020 CAL$ survey, 52% of Chico State respondents reported not purchasing the required textbook due to financial hardships, and 55% of students reported altering their food or housing budget to be able to purchase their textbooks. 

Without all course materials many students are unable to complete readings and other assignments, which can be a significant barrier to learning, persistence, and success. In February of 2020, 24% of Chico State student respondents felt their grades had been negatively impacted for this reason, and another 28% of students admitted avoiding or withdrawing from courses based on the costs of course materials. These survey results are consistent with larger studies, like that of the Florida Textbook Survey(opens in new window).

By reducing expenses, more students can acquire the course materials they need to succeed, helping improve retention and graduation rates. Quality OER have been shown to increase student academic success and satisfaction (e.g. Colvard et al. 2018 and Fischer et al. 2015). These studies also show that while all students benefit from OER (in terms of retention and completion), historically marginalized students gain the most. Adoption of Zero Cost Course Materials (ZCCM) is part of the solution to close the achievement gap in higher education.