Taking on the price of textbooks

An education is priceless. But it’s a big investment, too, and a challenging one for many students to afford.

There’s help, though, starting with one of the more vexing expenses that somehow always seems unjust—costly textbooks, and lots of them.

That burden is steadily lightening though, thanks to the efforts of the Marriott Library and the University Campus Store, who are entering their third year of the inclusive access program.

What’s inclusive access? It’s a program that facilitates the immediate delivery of course materials in digital form on the first day of class. And, it comes with a price tag that is typically 70-80% less expensive than its predecessor, the hardbound textbook.

At the end of 2019, the U’s program reached $3.3 million in savings to students, each averaging about $118 per course. A big success for the program’s administrators and clearly a big win for students, each now with their sights set high for the future. There’s still a long way to go in making inclusive access the rule instead of the exception in course material distribution.

Inclusive access, in large part, relies on faculty members choosing to enroll their courses in the program. By doing so, they allow for an entire-class purchase of the text at a deeply discounted rate, as opposed to each student buying their own book.

Faculty members, please note—this year’s deadlines for inclusive access course submissions are:

Summer Semester 2020: March 13

Fall Semester 2020: April 3

For regular textbooks, adoption dates are:

Summer Semester 2020: March 16

Fall Semester 2020: April 6

Spring Semester 2021: Oct. 25

Any course is eligible for inclusive access and the fee is paid as part of class registration. No waiting in line to buy books; instead, students can conveniently view their materials online anytime, anywhere. The program also adds helpful communicative features like assignment tracking and the ability to communicate with other students in the class. Professors can also communicate with students directly, as well as provide updates and announcements online.

“We’re thrilled at the opportunity to help students with this very important part of their education,” said Gordon Wilson, associate vice president of Auxiliary Services. “We’re in the business of helping students succeed and easing their financial burden when we can is a welcome opportunity.”

The inclusive access program currently has 227 courses enrolled and has administered 28,000 sets of materials to students. The process is a seamless one, as students are automatically opted-in when they register for the course and pay their tuition fees. This function is what allows the inclusive access team to negotiate for lower rates on materials, because they are ensuring an entire class’s consumption of the publication, not person by person, book by book. Students may choose to opt-out of the program after registering and receive a refund.

“Inclusive access is an easy way for professors and instructors to make a required textbook more affordable for students,” said Allyson Mower, associate librarian and member of the course material services team at the Marriott Library. “The technology makes access easy and the Campus Store staff is great to work with on getting things set up.”

Not only is the program convenient and cost-effective, but it’s also a much more sustainable method of issuing information, easing the burden of printing on publishers and keeping pace with industry trends as things increasingly move to digital platforms.

To learn more about inclusive access, contact Shane Girton, senior associate director of the University Campus Store, at sgirton@campusstore.utah.edu or at 801-581-8296. You can also find additional details on the store’s Inclusive Access Information Page.