MCC launches fully online Z Degree in Communications saving students time and money

Three smiling people, the MCC eLearning team, all wearing black t-shirts with a graphic with the text Z Degree.MCC eLearning team: Laura Ballard, Stephanie Williams and Ryan Matthews MESA, Arizona – Jan. 25, 2022 – Mesa Community College launches a Z Degree program in communications, an Associate in Arts, Emphasis in Communication, beginning with the Spring 2022 semester, the college’s second Z Degree – a degree offered completely online with zero textbook costs – saving students time and money.

MCC’s first Z Degree, an Arizona General Education Curriculum (AGEC) Certificate and general associate’s degree was introduced in 2019.

“The Z Degree offers students greater flexibility enabling them to take classes that fit their schedule. We built this program for the students who want flexibility, less distraction and less cost while pursuing their degree,” said Laura Ballard, director of MCC eLearning. “While classes still have due dates, students can complete their work when it’s convenient for them.”

Students can take eight-week, online Z Courses for a more focused semester and complete a degree in 18 months without taking breaks. They also have the option of combining Z Courses with in-person courses, which can lower the cost of their degrees, as well as take 14- and 16-week courses.

“Over the course of an entire associate’s degree program, students can save up to $8,300 in textbook and commuting fees over the traditional cost of a degree,” continued Ballard. “That’s a 62% savings. If you include child care costs, the savings are even more.” She notes that the communications Z Degree program will be offered online for several semesters and will most likely expand with student demand.

Instead of textbooks, students use open educational resources–freely accessible, openly licensed instructional materials–such as streaming media, faculty-developed content and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, assessing and research. “Other resources include proprietary content that the college pays for such as library databases, books and media,” Ballard explained. An August 2021 MCC annual report on open educational resources indicated that students saved $400,000 in textbook costs in the previous academic year.

Another advantage of Z Degrees is the easy transfer of credits to Arizona state schools – Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona – as well as Grand Canyon University, resulting in an additional savings in time and the cost of taking unnecessary courses.

The faculty works closely with the MCC Center for Teaching & Learning team while developing content for each Z Course. While only two Z Degrees are currently available, there are 28 Z Courses in a variety of fields including art, anthropology, science, communications, math, English, sociology. These were developed with the highest standards and include multimedia, engaged faculty and perfectly selected content. “We are working to expand course offerings,” Ballard points out. Five additional degree programs could be offered as Z Degrees in the near future.

For more information, visit the MCC Z Degree webpage.

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Media contact: Dawn Zimmer, or 480-461-7892

Mesa Community College is nationally recognized as an Aspen Prize Top 150 U.S. Community College and is known for service learning, career and technical programs, civic engagement and innovative approaches to education. For more than 50 years, the college has served as a resource for career readiness, transfer education, workforce development and lifelong learning. Host to more than 30,000 students annually, MCC offers degree and certificate programs at its two campuses, additional locations and a combination of online formats. Through Guided Pathways with Integrated Support Services and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, MCC is transforming how it champions student success, college completion, university transfer and career attainment and advancement. MCC is a Hispanic Serving Institution and nearly 50% of its students are the first in their families to attend college. Its American Indian Institute serves students from the 22 federally recognized tribes of Arizona as well as out-of-state tribes. MCC has the largest indigenous student population of all the Maricopa Community Colleges. The diverse student body includes more than 300 international students from 55 countries. Award-winning faculty are dedicated to student success, providing the education and training that empowers MCC students to successfully transfer to a university or compete in the workforce. Located in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, on the traditional territories of the O'odham, Piipaash and Yavapai Peoples, MCC is one of 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District. Visit to learn more.

Mesa Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) --

The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) is an EEO/AA institution and an equal opportunity employer of protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or national origin. A lack of English language skills will not be a barrier to admission and participation in the career and technical education programs of the District. MCCCD does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in its programs or activities. For Title IX/504 concerns, call the following number to reach the appointed coordinator: (480) 731-8499. For additional information, as well as a listing of all coordinators within the Maricopa College system, visit

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Publication Date: 
Tuesday, January 25, 2022