This fall, the college will offer a 2-year associate degree that will be taught using free or low-cost materials available on the Internet.

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A recent survey suggests that students are finding ways to reduce the amount they spend on college textbooks, and that professors are assigning less-expensive books. But this fall, Pierce College will offer an even better solution: A two-year associate degree that requires no textbooks at all.

That’s nothing to sneeze at. A year of tuition and fees for a full-time student at Pierce is $4,255, and textbooks cost another $1,100 per year, on average. A student who earns his or her two-year degree through this program could save about 20 percent of the cost, when textbooks are taken into account.

The program is called Pierce Open Pathway, and it will be offered at the college’s Joint Base Lewis McChord center. All of the credits earned in the program are directly transferable to any of Washington’s five public universities and one public college, The Evergreen State College. Classes will be offered both online and in a hybrid setting that allows students to do some work online and some in the classroom.

The classes are taught using open education resources — free or low-cost materials that take the place of traditional textbooks. The school’s resources project manager has worked with professors to identify materials that meet the requirements, and are either open or freely available on the Internet.

According to Pierce, only two other colleges in the nation currently offer a degree with no textbook costs: Tidewater Community College, in Norfolk, Va., and Northern Virginia Community College.

Registration for Pierce Open Pathway begins Aug. 17. Students who are interested in learning more can go to