The cost of higher education is rising at an alarming rate, with course materials and textbooks seeing some of the most dramatic increases. Along with increased costs, fewer students are buying textbooks and course materials. A 2011 survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, as reported by Molly Redden in The Chronicle of Higher Education, found that 70 percent of students had not purchased a textbook because of the price. Of these, 78 percent believed they would perform worse in class as a result. Although instructors expect students to use course materials for their classes, many do not. This can greatly impact student success.

To address this challenge, the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) launched the Maricopa Millions Project to support use of open educational resources (OER) –  teaching, learning, and research resources that are copyright-free or have been released under a copyright license that permits others to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute them. OER range from full courses, modules, and syllabi to class and lab activities, homework assignments, and quizzes, plus many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world.

The goal of Maricopa Millions is to radically decrease student costs by offering no-cost or low-cost options for course materials. No-cost courses have no additional cost to the student beyond fees associated with tuition, and low-cost courses have required course materials that are under $40. These costs may be associated with printing of required OER materials, copyrights for textbooks, online homework/quizzing systems, or similar facets of OER use. When OER are used, 100 percent of students have access to their course materials on the first day of class and whenever needed.

When Maricopa Millions was launched in 2012, the ultimate goal was to save MCCCD students $5 million in five years. This process was supported by a white paper written by a small group of faculty convened to investigate OER. It led to creation of an OER Steering Team of administration, faculty, and academic services and IT staff. The team developed a strategic plan which included outreach and education on OER through conference attendance and an internal grant program to encourage the adoption, curation, creation, and use of OER by faculty.

To accomplish the five-year goal, the following outcomes were established:

• As a district, join the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER), whose mission is to expand access to education by promoting awareness and adoption of open educational resources.

• Create an OER support team/strategic team to carry out the initiatives of the OER project.

• Determine the current state and build awareness of OER in MCCCD.

• Create MCCCD OER standards and guidelines for development and reuse.

• Conduct a pilot project that integrates OER into the highest enrollment courses and their prerequisite courses to serve as a model that can be adapted for other curriculum.

• Develop methodology and conduct ongoing assessment of effectiveness and impact of the OER Project.

• Support the integration and sustainability of OER across the curriculum.

• Maintain current and establish new connections with national OER initiatives/groups.

Within three years, OER reached its goal of $5 million in student savings in course materials through no-cost and low-cost (including OER) course materials. Now in the fifth year of the project, Maricopa Millions has surpassed $10 million savings (see Figure 1). All materials for the program can be found at the Maricopa Millions website,

In 2014, MCCCD became the first college system to allow students to search for no-cost and low-cost course materials, including OER, through the student information system. Our 2016-2017 goal was to increase student awareness of OER throughout the district, continue to quantify student impact of these resources, and develop a plan to institutionalize the project beyond the initial five-year scope.

With only one semester left in the five-year project, MCCCD has saved students $10,256,000. This number is calculated through an average textbook cost of $100, a common cost used in OER that factors in buy-backs and rentals, and a very conservative class size of 20 students per class. The grant has funded 21 OER course development projects.

With one year left in the initial project goal timeline, the project will continue to offer grant opportunities to faculty to develop more OER courses. Currently, efforts are under way to offer OER degrees at several MCCCD colleges. The Steering Team is also working on goals to increase faculty adoption and adaptation of OER course materials, and to increase student awareness of OER course offerings.

Figure 1: OER Savings Progress

Lisa Young, Alisa Cooper, and Angela Christiano

Lisa Young is Faculty Director, CTL, at Scottsdale Community College; Alisa Cooper is Faculty Director, CTLE, at Glendale Community College; and Angela Christiano is math faculty at Paradise Valley Community College

The three authors tri-chair the Maricopa Millions Project. To view the full version of this article, visit


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