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First zero-cost textbook degree offered for dual enrolled high school students

Tidewater Community College is partnering with Old Dominion University and Kempsville High School to create an affordable pathway to higher education, improving the rate at which college students receive a degree, certificate or workforce credential.

The program will offer students a path from the high school’s Entrepreneurship and Business Academy, through enrollment in TCC’s business administration program, to ODU’s leadership major. It will use Open Educational Resources (OER) rather than textbooks to reduce costs to students.

The proposal builds on the Z-Degree program created by TCC, which provides students access to textbook-free associate degrees. “TCC was the first accredited institution of higher learning in the United States to offer a zero-cost textbook degree. While we see the obvious benefits for our students, it has always been our hope to inspire other faculty and institutions to replicate what we’ve accomplished,” said Daniel DeMarte, TCC’s vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer.

TCC, ODU and Kempsville High have received $140,000 through the Affordable Pathways Partnership Grant Awards, first announced by Gov. Terry McAuliffe this summer. The grant aims to improve transitions from high school to postsecondary education, reduce costs and increase completion rates.

“The increasing cost of textbooks has been a major source of concern for students, especially students from underrepresented populations and economically disadvantaged backgrounds,” said Old Dominion Provost Augustine O. Agho. “This initiative is consistent with our plans to reduce the burden of textbook costs for students.” 

This program will include three components: 

  • The development of a pathway that transitions the TCC associate degree earned through dual enrollment with the Virginia Beach Public High School’s Entrepreneurship and Business Academy to ODU’s undergraduate major in leadership;
  • The development of 12 textbook-free leadership courses in ODU’s leadership major; and
  • The development of an infrastructure needed to expand this pathway to other degrees and other high school programs.

For students who earn a bachelor’s degree through this pathway, it is possible that the full tuition for the degree could be as low as $16,725. The textbook costs for students through this pathway could be reduced from an average cost of $5,000 to zero.

The ODU-TCC-Kempsville proposal was one of five funded at Virginia public colleges and universities.

“These programs will increase economic mobility and opportunity for students and save families time and money,” McAuliffe said. “Earning a college degree or workforce credential has become vital for success in the new economy. Programs like these will provide students new and better ways to gain an advanced education faster and more efficiently.”

The pathways program is administered through the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) and funded through the Fund for Excellence and Innovation.

“One of the Council’s top priorities is to enhance pathways for students at all levels,” said SCHEV chair G. Gilmer Minor III. “We thank the governor and the General Assembly for supporting this effort through these Affordable Pathways grants.”