Chico Affordable Learning Solutions

The Value of Zero- and Low-Cost Materials

In the past two decades both college tuition and the price of traditional college textbooks have skyrocketed - the consumer price index (CPI) indicates the rate of increase of both are beyond that of overall consumer prices, housing expenses, and even healthcare services ( The yearly cost of books and supplies for full time college students is estimated to be nearly $1300 (

Relative comparison of percent changes in college textbooks to medical services

The Florida Virtual Campus Survey (2016) reports that due to high textbook costs, students:

  • Go without the required textbook (67% of students)
  • Take fewer courses (48% of students)
  • Don’t register for a specific course
  • Drop a course
  • Withdraw from a course
  • Earn a poor grade because they could not afford to buy the textbook
  • Fail a course because they could not afford to buy the textbook


At Chico State nearly 50% of students are low-income (PELL grant eligible), many have experienced food insecurity, and certainly are impacted similarly. Faculty efforts to assign quality zero-cost or low-cost resources help meet our goal of equal access to course materials for all students, and hopefully will inspire academic inquiry and improve learning in their courses.