Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students majoring in criminal justice can now potentially complete the degree program without ever having to buy a textbook, saving altogether, an estimated $2,500.
BMCC faculty have redesigned 20 courses to create an Open Educational Resources (OER) criminal justice associate degree. The effort was funded by a 2016, two-year OER grant from the organization Achieving the Dream.
This milestone was reached through the efforts of criminal justice faculty as well as professors in core courses such as mathematics. A number of faculty who worked to bring the OER criminal justice degree to fruition—the first OER associate degree program at BMCC—say the process was filled with challenges yet ultimately was energizing.
BMCC, along with Hostos Community College (CUNY) and Bronx Community College (CUNY), participated in the Achieving the Dream initiative. The thin path to a textbook-free criminal justice degree—where at least one section of each core course is offered with OER materials—is just one component of the college’s multi-pronged efforts to bring Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) to students. Funded by the New York State Department of Education, efforts are currently underway to develop a ZTC animation and motion graphics degree program, along with redesigning gateway and high enrollment courses.
BMCC growing ZTC options
As 2018 comes to a close, BMCC faculty are teaching more than 500 sections of ZTC courses each semester, resulting in an estimated annual savings of $2.5 million for more than 20,000 students. By Fall 2019, cumulative savings for BMCC students will be at least $6 million, according to figures compiled by the BMCC A. Philip Randolph Memorial Library.
Research from a 2017 study from the Association of American Colleges and Universities suggests that OER is an equity strategy: providing all students with access to course materials on the first day of class serves to level the playing field in course settings.
That holds especially true at BMCC where more than half of the students come from households with annual incomes of less than $20,000. This makes the average $1,200 annual cost for books and other supplies a barrier to academic success for many students.