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Low & No-Cost Educational Resources

Guide to finding and using low & no-cost materials, including open educational resources.

Call for Proposals

Announcement – Call for Proposals

Mini-grant funding is provided through the Scholar Transformational Impact Fund.
Spring 2024 Call for Proposals Opens Feb. 1, 2024 -- for Summer or Fall 2024 Course Offerings
Updated application form (available in Box for download).
Apply by Monday, April 8, 2024. Email:


The UC Merced Library invites faculty (senate and non-senate) to apply for funding to eliminate or minimize course costs for students.

The call for proposals in spring 2024 for summer & fall 2024 courses will either accept applications that 1) eliminate course material costs or 2) reduce or minimize course material costs within certain parameters. For proposals that reduce costs, they must meet these parameters:

  • for new courses, course materials costs for students must not exceed $20.00.
  • for existing courses, course material costs are reduced to $40.00 or less AND must involve at least a 30% reduction in course material costs over the last time the course was offered. 

Program details below highlight criteria that impact application evaluation. This grant is available for both undergraduate and graduate courses.

The elimination or reduction of course costs for students may be supported by the adoption of Open Educational Resources (OER), use of UC Merced Library licensed electronic resources, and/or low-cost resources.

Instructors who receive awards are required to participate in assessment activities related to the effectiveness of the Zero-Cost Course Materials (ZCCM) / Low-Cost Course Materials (LCCM) grant.

  • Deadline for consideration: Monday, April 8, 2024 (end of day)
  • Notification of funding decisions: by Wednesday, May 1, 2024

This award cycle is for proposals that will be implemented in summer or fall 2024 courses. An additional call will be distributed in fall 2024 for spring 2025 courses.

Grant Program Details

Why might I consider eliminating or reducing course materials costs for students?

Removing the financial burden of purchasing educational materials can have a significant impact on student engagement and success. The negative impacts of high textbook costs are well-documented. See Impact of Textbooks Costs on our guide.


In what ways can I eliminate or reduce course materials in this grant program?

Eliminating the cost of course materials to $0 can be achieved

1) through the adoption or modification of Open Educational Resources (OER) or

2) by combining OER and library-licensed resources.

Reducing the cost of course materials -- to $40 or less for existing courses OR $20.00 or less for new courses -- can be achieved through one or more of these strategies:

1) through the adoption or modification of Open Educational Resources (OER);

2) by using library-licensed resources;

3) by selecting low-cost options.


Why might I consider the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) as I consider how to eliminate or reduce course costs for students?

Open Educational Resources (OER) ensure that students have access to course materials, free of cost, before the first day of class. OER materials can be customized to the teaching style of the professor and to the learning outcomes of a course.

OER are defined as teaching, learning, and research resources that are in the public domain or released under a license that permits free use and repurposing. Examples of OER include complete textbooks, teaching materials, texts, and questions banks while library-licensed electronic resources may include journal articles, ebooks, streaming video, available data sets etc.

Resource: OER Search Tools, Respositories, and Collections


What are considered course material costs?

Course materials costs include items such as books, articles, course readers, practice question banks, polling software etc. that you require students to have for the course. For the purposes of this program, course materials do not include lab supplies like safety glasses.


What is considered low-cost?

For grant eligibility, low-cost means that the combined cost of course materials to the students is either $40.00 or less in an existing course (with significant cost savings over prior offerings as outlined below) or $20.00 or less in a new course. This combination of course materials may include items such as textbooks, workbooks, streaming media, lab manuals, online homework platforms etc. 

The $40 or $20 threshold applies to a class regardless the number of credits and is based on the new book price at the campus bookstore or directly charged by the publisher, whichever is lower. However, the highest priced format (e.g. print) must be at or under this threshold.

Lumen Learning titles are under $40 and leverage OER but with tech integration. These titles may be an option for your course.


What award opportunities are available?

Faculty can apply for one of the following awards for replacing commercial materials with zero-cost or low-cost resources.

Eliminate Course Costs for Students

1. $1000 one-time award for the adoption of an existing OER and/or use of Library licensed materials to eliminate course material costs for students.

2. $1,500 one-time award for modifying an existing OER to eliminate course materials costs for students. OER may be modified by editing or creating content such as additional chapters, modules, question banks, or lecture slides.

Reduce or Minimize Course Costs for Students

Course materials selected may include OER, Library licensed materials, and/or low-cost options.

3. $1,000 one-time award for reducing course costs to $40.00 or less in an existing course. Note: This must involve at least a 30% reduction in course material costs over the last time the course was offered. 

Example A: If the course previously required students to pay $60.00 for course materials and you are able to reduce it to $40.00, this would result in a 33% reduction in cost and would be eligible for funding. 

Example B: If the course previously required students to pay $80.00 for course materials and you are able to reduce it to $32.00, this would result in a 60% reduction in cost and would be eligible for funding.

4. $1,000 one-time award for ensuring course material costs do not exceed $20.00 for a new course. Course materials selected may include OER, Library licensed materials, and/or low-cost options.



How can award funding be used?

Award funding may be used for technology, equipment, course-related costs and professional development. We are unable to directly compensate faculty for their time.

Funding for summer or fall 2024 courses is allocated after the award notification and must be used by June 30, 2025.


Who is eligible to apply for funding?

Proposals can be submitted by UC Merced faculty (senate and non-senate). Applicants may submit as an individual or a team.

The UC Merced academic appointee must be the instructor of record teaching an undergraduate or graduate level course in the semester for which the funding is requested. This call for proposals (spring 2024) is for courses to be taught in summer 2024 OR fall 2024. Note: Another call will be issued in fall 2024 for spring 2025 courses.


How are funding decisions prioritized?

Priority will be given to proposals

  • for high-enrollment courses,
  • for courses offered each semester or annually to enable repeated use of savings,
  • with high-cost savings for students compared to prior offering (a minimum 30% reduction in cost).

In addition to these key criteria, we prioritize new applicants. Please consider the completeness and clarity of your application to be fully competitive.


What support is available during this process?

Faculty members awarded funding will receive support from the Library and CETL to assist with the discovery and evaluation of OER, zero-cost and low-cost materials, and their integration into the curriculum.


What type of assessment is part of this grant?

A librarian will coordinate with you to request a short amount of time to obtain students' feedback on the use of no-cost or low-cost materials in your course.

When possible, the library is also assessing impacts on student outcomes pre & post zero-cost or low-cost materials. Assessment activities evaluating the impact of the grant have been approved by UC Merced's Institutional Review Board.       

This December 2023 article summarizes the program's assessment from 2019-2021. 

Davidson Squibb, S., Salmon, E., & Yan, Y. (2023). Measuring the Impact of an Open Educational Resource and Library e-Resource Adoption Program Using the COUP Framework. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 24(4), 80–101.


What has been the impact of the ZCCM grant program so far?

UC Merced's Newsroom featured the Zero-Cost Course Materials (ZCCM) pilot program in March 2022: "Grant Saves Students Thousands of Dollars in Textbook Costs".

Based on data through 2023, UC Merced students have saved a minimum of $440,000 on course material costs due to faculty adoption of zero-cost course materials. The article above also notes that UC Merced students in ZCCM courses demonstrated higher rates of course completion than students enrolled in previous sections with course material costs.


What is the history of this program?

The Zero-Cost Course Materials Grant started as a three-year pilot program initiated by the UC Merced Library and the Center for Engaged Teaching & Learning (CETL) in 2018. We acquired (summer 2022) funding from the Scholar Transformational Impact Fund to renew this program.


What important dates and deadlines should I be aware of?

The timeline below shows the important dates for the Zero-Cost / Low-Cost Course Materials Grant RFP.

  • Submission Window Opens:  February 1, 2024
  • Information Sessions for Faculty: March 7, 2024 and March 18, 2024
  • Submission Window Closes: April 8, 2024 (end of day)
  • Notification of Awards: by May 1, 2024

Faculty with successful proposals will implement zero-cost or low-cost course materials during either the summer OR fall 2024 semester. There will be future calls for proposals. We anticipate distributing ~$5,000 in faculty grant awards each semester through spring 2025. However, this is dependent on the number of successful submissions per semester.


How do I submit my proposal?

Complete the updated application form (available in Box for download) and submit to by end of day, Monday, April 8, 2024.


What does a well-developed proposal look like?

See this example of a completed and funded proposal kindly provided by a grant applicant. Note: The application has been updated slightly from this example.


Where can I find out more?

Information sessions about the grant will take place on the following dates via Zoom. Please bring any questions about the program or the application. Sessions are listed below with more details at our Library Calendar.

This guide includes additional information about OER and low-cost materials the impact of them on student learning

Contact Sara Davidson Squibb, AUL for Research & Engagement ( for any questions about this grant program or Open Educational Resources (OER). She is happy to meet one-on-one with anyone who wants to ask questions or talk through their ideas.

Past Awards

ZCCM Grants Awarded

RFP Cycle ZCCM Implemented Course Professor Resource(s)
Fall 2018 Spring 2019 Econ 10, Inferential Statistics Jason Lee Adoption of OpenStax Introductory Business Statistics
Fall 2018 Spring 2019 IH 206, GIS for World History Karl Ryavec Adoption of Mapping Political Economies over Time 
Fall 2018 Fall 2019 Wri 1, Academic Writing  Catherine Koehler, Amy Fenstermaker Updated curriculum using library licensed resources
Fall 2018 Fall 2019 Wri 10, Reading and Composition Catherine Koehler, Amy Fenstermaker Updated curriculum using library licensed resources
Spring 2019 Fall 2019 Phys 8L,  Introductory Physics II Lab Carrie Menke, Toni Stone, Kristina Callaghan, Stefanie Stepp Creation of a new open lab manual
Spring 2019 Fall 2019 Phys 9L, Introductory Physics II Lab Carrie Menke, Toni Stone, Kristina Callaghan, Stefanie Stepp Creation of a new open lab manual
Spring 2019 Spring 2020 Econ 112, GIS for World Economic History Rowena Gray, Karl Ryavec Adoption of OER and library licensed materials
Fall 2019 Spring 2020 Econ 1, Introduction to Economics Jason Lee Adoption of  OpenStax Principles of Economics
Fall 2019 Fall  2020 ME 140, Vibrations and  Control Jian-Qiao Sun Development of an open textbook
Spring 2020 Fall  2020 Bio 001, Contemporary Biology Petra Kranzfelder, Laura Beaster-Jones, Jennifer Manilay, Jessica Blois Adoption of OpenStax Biology 2e
Spring 2020 Fall  2020 Math 131, Numerical Methods Science & Engineering Erica Rutter Modify Tea Time Numerical Analysis (OER)
Fall 2020 Summer 2021 Wri 100, Advanced Writing Iris Ruiz Adoption of OER and library licensed materials
Fall 2020 Fall 2021 CE 10, Surveying and Geomatics Fundamentals Siddaiah Yarra Adoption of OER materials; development of teaching materials
Spring 2021 Fall 2021 Soc 10, Statistics for Sociology Camila Alvarez & Charlie Eaton Development of free software tools, lecture slides, lesson modules, and interactive assignments for Du Boisian methods.
Spring 2021 Fall 2021 CSE 176, Introduction to Machine Learning Miguel Carreria-Periñan Development of a self-standing, open-access textbook.
Spring 2021 Fall 2021 ENGR 57, Statics and Dynamics Siddaiah Yarra Adopt an existing OER.
Spring 2021 Fall 2021 ENG/PHIL 121, Existentialism Nigel Hatton Use of Library e-resources and OER.

ZCCM / LCCM Grants Resumed

RFP Cycle ZCCM Implemented Course Professor Resources
Fall 2022 Spring 2023 PH 106 Health Policy Susana Ramirez Use of Library e-resources; Longest's Health Policymaking in the United States
Spring 2023 Summer 2023 ENGR 155 Engineering Economic Analysis Siddaiah Yarra Development of lecture slides and online quizzes via CatCourses
Spring 2023 Fall 2023 GEOG/HS 112, Sec. 01 GIS for World Economic History Karl Ryavec Created additional exercises requiring use of GIS data to expand the GIS Lab Manual series titled “Mapping Political Economics over Time”. This series of exercises is available in eScholarship.
Spring 2023 Fall 2023 MATH 21, Sec. 30 Calculus I for Physical Sciences and Engineering Alexander Yatskar Used Desmos graph animations and OpenStax textbook
Fall 2023 Spring 2024 ESS 002 Sustainability Science Sylvain Masclin  
Fall 2023 Spring 2024 ECON 001 Introduction to Economics Todd Sorensen Used freely available texts from CORE including The Economy 2.0. Created videos from interviews of former Economics majors; developed some question banks for use in Canvas.
Fall 2023 Spring 2024 ECON 121 Economics of Banking and Financial Institutions Jason Lee Shared lecture notes via CatCourses. Used OER Money and Banking (Robert Wright). Aligned chapters with course content. Uploaded book chapters (PDFs) to CatCourses for student use.
Fall 2023 Spring 2024 ECON 005 Introduction to Business and Finance Justin Hicks  
Spring 2023 Summer 2024 PSY 124 Health Disparities Bobby Hutchinson  
Spring 2023 Fall 2024 SPAN 103, Sec. 01 Spanish Composition and Conversation Elizabeth Cisneros  
Spring 2023 Fall 2024 ENGR 057, 01 Statics & Dynamics Engineering Marcus Lee  
Spring 2023 Fall 2024

WRI 103, Sec. 01Research Methods and Design in Writing Studies

IH 221 Digital Approaches to Text Analysis

Yiran Xu