Course Catalog Designators


In Fall 2018, University System of Georgia (USG) institutions will be required to prominently designate sections of courses whose course materials exclusively consist of no-cost (open or free textbooks) or low-cost course materials at the point of registration. In Banner, USG institutions will use 2 designations for courses with:

  • No-cost: $0 required costs
  • Low-cost: $40 or under required costs

Included in the cost caps are textbooks and other text-based materials, workbooks, lab manuals, online homework platforms, and codes or publisher-provided curricular materials for students.

Excluded from the cost caps are equipment (such as art supplies, calculators, or physical lab materials) and fees for test proctoring.

These designations will use the following codes in Banner:

  • ZNCM: No-cost: $0 required costs
  • ZLCM: Low-cost: $40 or under required costs

Definition: No-cost Designator

The No-cost designator is for use with courses that exclusively use course materials that are free of charge to students. These materials may include open educational resources (OER), institutionally licensed campus library materials that all students enrolled in the course have access to use, and other materials that require no additional cost to students.

Open educational resources (OER) are high-quality teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license, such as a Creative Commons license, that permits their free use and repurposing by others, and may include other resources that are legally available and free of cost to students.

OER include, but are not limited to: full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, faculty-created content, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.

Definition: Low-cost Designator

The Low-cost designator is for use with courses that require course materials which cost students a total of $40 or less per course.


Optional costs should not be included in your calculation.

For example: you provide students with a link to a free, online version of your materials but give them the option to purchase materials in print or point them to an optional homework help platform. The cost of the optional materials should not be included in your calculation. However, if the print version or homework platform is required in your class, you should include that cost in your calculation.

Only identify courses that meet these cost-cap requirements ($0 or $40 or under).

By default, classes that do not meet one of these two cost caps will not be designated. Students will have the ability to search for courses that meet one of these two material cost caps in the schedule.

If a resource is used across multiple courses in a sequence, do not base your calculation on the cost divided by those courses.

For example, a text that costs $120 that is required for three sequenced courses does not meet the $40 or under label requirement. Not all students take all courses in a series, students may take courses over time and may have to pay for edition changes, and students would have to pay the full cost up-front and could not budget for three even payments.

Frequently Asked Questions

What cost should I use? What if materials are less expensive on Amazon, etc.?

To calculate your text-related costs for these designations, use the cost of new materials in your campus bookstore. While materials may be less expensive elsewhere, students using financial aid often must purchase materials from the bookstore, and while used prices might be lower, used purchasing can be complicated by limited supplies and edition changes. Contact your campus bookstore for help with bookstore pricing.

What if my text is available as an eBook through the library?

If your required text is available as a free-to-students eBook through the library, as long as you do not require students to purchase the printed text in your class, your course can qualify for the $0 cost designation. Students may assume they must purchase the printed text if you mark a library-provided textbook as required. Consider listing the text as “optional” on the campus bookstore’s site and messaging students about their choices before the term begins.

If you are interested in the eBooks your library has to offer, please consult with a librarian at your institution’s library. The library can check as to whether or not an eBook’s licensing allows for the type of unlimited concurrent use for students that required course materials would need.

What if I do not require any texts or commercial materials for my class?

Your course can qualify for the $0 designation if no commercial materials or texts are required. For the purposes of these cost designations, it does not matter if you are using instructor-created materials, open educational resources, activities, slides, websites, or library materials. Apply this question: does my course have any textbook or publisher-related costs? If the answer is no, the course meets the no-cost designation. If the answer is yes, but $40 or less, the course meets the low-cost designation.

What if I am unsure about the cost of my materials?

Consult your bookstore for guidance. If you are still unsure about whether your course meets one of the two designations at the registration deadline, do not ask your schedule-builder to designate your course as no-cost or low-cost materials.

When is this happening?

Our current target is to collect as much information about courses as possible to publish in the online schedule for Fall 2018. However, departments should begin working to develop processes to collect and track this information now. Changes to these designations can not be made after registration goes live.

What should I be doing?
  • Administration
    • Raise awareness regarding this change within your institution, both for faculty reporting designations and for students registering for Fall 2018 courses through effective outreach channels.
  • Faculty
    • If your course meets one of the 2 designations, either contact the person who enters scheduling information for your department into Banner to notify them, or wait for your department chair to ask for this information. If your course does not meet one of these designations, you do not need to change anything.
  • Department Chairs and Deans
    • Work with your faculty and staff to develop processes to collect this information from faculty each term. Designate roles and responsibilities in this information collection process. Suggestions include using a shared form or spreadsheet to allow faculty to input their own information, therefore reducing the workload for all involved.
  • Schedule Entry Assistants and Staff
    • Work with your faculty and chairs to develop processes to collect this information from faculty each term. Designate roles and responsibilities in this information collection process. Suggestions include using a shared form or spreadsheet to allow faculty to input their own information, therefore reducing the workload for all involved.

While we ask that you help to facilitate these processes to collect this information, it is the responsibility of the faculty to communicate these designations by the time the classes are to be built in Banner (or when registration begins, at the latest).

We hope you find this information helpful for your planning and implementation of required course material no-cost and low-cost designation codes.

“Cost Designators for Required Materials in USG Course Schedules” is provided under a CC-BY 4.0 License.

Attribution to the Oregon Guidelines Document:
“Designation FAQ,” Portland Community College, CC-BY 4.0.

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