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Most young couples spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get their kids a college education. It takes a while, because costs associated with such a mission are considerable.

Perhaps a better word to use with regard to higher education’s costs would be “daunting.”

The average cost of college tuition and fees for the most recent school year was $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. If your kid is aiming for a four-year degree, well, you can do the math. Lots of folks do the math, and the bottom line is that too often the parents’ dreams of a college education for their children fall by the wayside.

Tuition is the major cost, but for many middle and lower-income families harboring dreams of their daughter or son up on stage receiving a diploma, just the cost of textbooks alone can be a deal-breaker.

A recent report states, "In a survey of more than 2,000 college students in 33 states and 156 different campuses, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found the average student spends as much as $1,200 each year on textbooks and supplies alone.”

Now, $1,200 a year may not seem like a deal-breaker to many readers, but for a family having to make decisions between paying the rent and paying other monthly expenses, that could be a deal-breaking sum.

Sometimes a professor will assign a text that could set the student back between $200-$300 — for just one book. The costs are huge because of a teacher’s specificity, and because just a handful of publishers have a lock on the college textbook market.

That is the cost of doing business in a free-market economy, even if the market doesn’t seem so “free” for a lot of folks.

But like so many problems facing high school students looking to advance to the next level of education, Allan Hancock College officials have come up with at least a partial solution to the costs issue.

Hancock officials last week announced the purchase of $40,000 in textbooks for the campus library, thus launching the ambitious Zero Textbook Cost program. It’s a pilot project facilitating the student path to completing Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) programs without having to buy a single textbook.

Hancock College officials are expecting about 1,000 students to earn degrees through the Zero Textbook Cost program over its first three years. Stated in dollar amounts, that could mean AHC students will save between $4-8 million.

Given the fact that so many Hancock students are from working-class families, saving that much money while earning a two-year degree and moving on to a four-year college or university is a giant step in the right direction.

This new program also is a demonstration of how a public/private collaboration can work in the community’s favor. The books were purchased with funds generated from the Foundation's President's Circle members, a local group, along with organizations whose financial support helps student programs — adding value and opportunity.

The overall costs of attending a community college are already relatively low, but adding free textbooks into the mix makes this one of the sweetest deals young people could hope for in their quest for a college degree, and the financial/career success such a document encourages.

We devote a lot of space on this page every year to acknowledging innovative programs at Allan Hancock College. Add this one to the list.