M State to offer business, psychology programs with zero textbook costs for students

$100K grant award will lead to two new Z-Degrees at the college, and it’s estimated that college students in these programs save about $2,000 a year.

The M State campus in Detroit Lakes. File photo
The M State campus in Detroit Lakes. File photo

DETROIT LAKES — M State is continuing its commitment to affordability with the implementation of two new Z-Degree programs, which students can complete without spending a single cent on textbooks.

It’s estimated that college students in Z-Degree programs save about $2,000 a year, according to an M State news release.

A new $100,000 grant award from the Minnesota State Educational Development and Technology Unit will pave the way for M State’s Psychology Transfer Pathway program and Associate of Applied Science in Business to become Z-Degrees, as early as fall 2024. Both are two-year, 60-credit programs.

They will be among the first Z-Degree options in the state to go beyond a basic Associate of Arts degree.
“We are proud to add two more programs to our growing list of Z-Degrees at M State,” said President Carrie Brimhall. “Z-Degree programs save our students thousands of dollars and potentially years of debt, and in some circumstances mean the difference between finishing their degree or not. An important part of our mission is to provide an affordable education; the cost savings that Z-Degree programs and courses provide help us uphold that commitment.”

M State is one of nine colleges within the Minnesota State system that currently offer Z-Degrees. Eight more system colleges and universities are in the process of developing Z-Degree courses.


A Z-Degree is a complete degree program that exclusively uses course resources that come with no cost to students, such as open textbooks or free printed, online or multimedia open educational resources.

M State currently has one Z-Degree program, the two-year Associate of Arts-Liberal Arts and Sciences Z Degree.

Similarly, Zero Textbook Cost Courses, or Z-Degree courses, are courses that exclusively use resources that are no cost to students. M State currently has over 70 Z-Degree courses, which can be found within almost 20 different degree programs.

Already, many of M State’s psychology and business courses are Z-Degree courses: The new grant funds will ensure that students can complete the Business AAS and Psychology Transfer Pathway degree programs without any textbook costs for students.

The grant application was submitted by Marsha Weber, Dean for the School of Business and Information Technology, and Alicia Carley, Interim Dean of Liberal Arts and Humanities.

Weber said the award is partly a follow-up to a previous $100,000 grant the college received in 2020 to explore and develop options for Z-Degrees and Z-Degree courses. The previous award led to the implementation of many new Z-Degree courses at M State, as well as the fall 2022 implementation of the Associate of Arts-Liberal Arts and Sciences Z-Degree.

“M State already has the foundation laid for Z-Degree program and course offerings, with faculty and staff trained in the use of open educational resources, curriculum plans in place or in the works, and our campus bookstores ready to help students obtain the materials they need,” said Weber. “This new grant award will help us continue to build on that strong foundation, expanding our Z-Degree options for the benefit of our students.”

“Students love Z-Degrees and Z-Degree courses,” said Carley. “Textbooks can cost them hundreds of dollars apiece, and many of our students are in situations where they’re struggling just to buy food or pay rent. Z-Degrees address the financial challenges students face, and ensure that every student has access to the learning resources they need.”


In addition to the substantial textbook cost savings of Z-Degrees, many M State students also save substantially on tuition thanks to the college’s scholarship programs and sponsored degree options. Currently, 52% of M State’s degree-seeking students attend tuition-free, and the college continues to partner with communities and businesses throughout the region to keep that percentage strong.

A member of the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities, M State serves more than 6,500 students in credit courses each year in over 70 career and liberal arts programs online and in-person at its campuses in Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Moorhead and Wadena. The college also partners with communities to provide workforce development services and other responsive training programs to 500 businesses and 9,000 participants.

Detroit Lakes Tribune newsroom
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