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A Student's Guide Textbook Affordability Support at VCU Libraries

Searching for courses based on textbook cost

Marking Course Using Low- and No-Cost Materials

Starting in Fall 2020, VCU has begun indicating which classes use low- and no-cost course materials in the Schedule of Classes. 

What does this mean?

"Marking" this information in the schedule of classes allows students to search for or select classes which use affordable course materials. In other words, if you want to select classes based on how much you'll have to pay for textbooks, now you can do that.

What are the options for affordable course content markings?

In the VCU Schedule of Courses, classes using affordable course content can be marked as no cost materials or low cost materials.

What is no-cost?

Courses that are marked as no cost materials will require students to spend $0 for course materials beyond standard course fees (e.g. lab fee).

What is low-cost?

At VCU, courses can be marked as low cost materials if the total cost of all course materials is $40 or less. So, a class that has two $25 books would not qualify, but one that has one $40 book would.

The prices are calculated "from the pre-tax price at the university bookstores of the least expensive purchase option—whether new, used or rental—for which the university bookstores are able to obtain sufficient stock for all enrollments" (VCU Textbook Adoptions and Sales Policy).

Course Materials Cost Attribute

Low- and no-cost course materials are marked as an "attribute" of a class. In the search results, attribute is the last column: 

Search result from the VCU Schedule of Classes. Column headers: Title, Subject Description, Course, Section, Jours, CRN, Term, Instructor, Meeting Times, Campus, Status, and Attribute. Attributes listed on the row are low cost materials, online-synchronous instruction, Business School Fee, and On-Campus Billing Rate.

The attributes for classes using affordable course content are no cost materials or low cost materials.

Searching for courses low- and no-cost materials

If you know that textbook costs will influence your course decisions, you can organize your search to only include classes marked with the low- and no-cost course materials attribute.

  1. Once you select the semester, you'll land on the main search screen. Click "advanced search."Screenshot of the simple search. Advance Search is at the bottom, to the right of search and clear buttons. An arrow points to "advanced search.""
  1. Scroll down the advanced search options until you find the "Attribute" field (between "Keyword (Without the Word)" and "Campus").Screenshot of advanced search options. Starts mid-field. Attribute is in the middle of the screen, and highlighted with a red box.


  1. Either scroll through the list of possible attributes or search "cost" to pull up the two course materials costs fields.Screenshot of advanced search. In Attribute field, "cost" is typed, and the options Low cost materials and No cost materials appear as a dropdown.


  1. Click the option you want. If you want to include both attributes, you need to repeat the search and select the other option.Screenshot of screan with "no cost materials" in the attribute field.
  1. Enter any other items you want to search for (e.g. Subject, Campus, Meeting Day) and then press search.
  1. All courses listed on the results page will match one of the attributes you selected. Doublecheck the attribute column to confirm the match.