UA BookStores Program Helped Students Save $3M
A University of Arizona BookStores program that provides online course materials at considerably lower prices than printed textbooks helped save students more than $3 million during the last fiscal year.
Inclusive Access began as a pilot program in fall 2016 as part of the UA BookStores' ongoing efforts to mitigate the financial burden on students. In those courses where faculty have adopted the program, students have access to electronic versions of required course materials beginning on the first day of class.
Students can access the materials via D2L for free through the add/drop deadline, after which time they pay for the materials at prices lower than competitive market rates. Students also can opt out of the program.
Last year, students who used Inclusive Access materials saved, on average, about half what they would have paid for printed materials, said Cindy Hawk, assistant director of the bookstore's book division. Those savings can have big academic implications, Hawk added, particularly for students who may be forced to go without a textbook simply because they can't afford it.
"The thinking behind the savings is the more that students can save, the more likely they are to buy the content, use it and be successful," Hawk said.
Inclusive Access has grown exponentially since it began in fall 2016. Back then, the program was used in only three courses. But by the end of fiscal year 2017, it had grown, helping students save more than $300,000. Now, UA BookStores has partnered with 12 publishers this semester to offer the electronic materials and more than 100 faculty have adopted the program. As of late August, Inclusive Access was available in more than 150 courses – a number that is expected to grow over the course of the semester.
Though saving students money is the primary goal for Inclusive Access, Hawk said she has heard positive feedback from faculty about the program's convenience.
"I think they really like it because students have automatic access the very first day of class," she said. "So, it's not a matter of saying, 'This is the book you have to acquire, you can find it at the bookstore or search for it wherever.' Students have it."
Bill Neumann, a professor of practice in management information systems in the Eller College of Management, was among the early adopters. He uses Inclusive Access for MIS 111 – Computers and Internetworked Society – and the class's corresponding lab. With more than 1,800 students, it's one of the largest courses on campus, Neumann said.
Neumann agrees that one main advantage is providing students access to the course materials immediately.
"Now, in the first week, I can assign readings, and I don't have to worry about a student being able to participate in the class because of financial constraints or disbursement of financial aid. And those students who may have had to decide to buy a book or not buy a book are not behind, so they're more likely to succeed," Neumann said. "Those are the big wins for me. And the fact that we can save students a boatload of money is just one of those wonderful things that's icing on the cake."
Faculty interested in adopting Inclusive Access for required course materials should begin by submitting a textbook adoption form, just like they would with any printed materials, Hawk said. UA BookStores will then negotiate with the publisher on pricing and licensing the content. Faculty also must request their D2L page for the course, which is then built and linked to the content. UA BookStores plans to explore ways to streamline and scale the Inclusive Access on-boarding process in the future, Hawk said.
Hawk and her team are optimistic that Inclusive Access will continue to grow. Last fiscal year, 31 percent of all course materials at the UA were part of the program. UA BookStores projects that will jump to 41 percent this fiscal year, Hawk said.
An invitation-only reception scheduled for Oct. 18 at the UA BookStore at the Student Union Memorial Center will recognize the roughly 80 faculty who were early adopters of the program. The reception will be preceded by a resource fair, from noon to 4 p.m., on the BookStore's main level. Representatives from publishers will be at the resource fair to meet with faculty and answer questions. The fair is open to all faculty.
"The less students pay for course materials, the more affordable it is to attend the UA," said Debby Shively, assistant vice president of entrepreneurial services and business development at UA BookStores. Shively added that she hopes Inclusive Access eliminates the need for students to make tough decisions on whether they can take a class because they can't afford the course materials.
"We feel like we should celebrate the faculty that have embraced Inclusive Access," Shively said, "because without them, we couldn't offer the savings to students."