How Inclusive Access Purchasing Programs Can Lower the Cost of Higher Education

January 13, 2017 Christopher Ruel

What Is Inclusive Access?

Institutions of higher education and textbook publishers have united to significantly reduce the cost of textbooks through an innovative purchasing model called inclusive access. (Other names, such as digital direct, and digital direct access are used interchangeably with inclusive access.)           cash in bookstore.jpg

The inclusive access model includes the cost of textbooks as part of a student's tuition or course fee. As a result, students gain immediate digital access to their required book(s). If you think that such programs will hide the cost of textbooks and cause tuition and fees to increase, let's look at how inclusive access purchasing programs originated and how they work

Why Now?

Presidential candidates, legislators, parents, and students all agree that the cost of a college education is too high. Student debt now equals 1.4 trillion dollars, and the resultant drag on the US economy affects everything from home purchases to retirement savings. Textbook publishers have been actively listening and working with stakeholders to develop a viable student purchasing solution that accomplishes not just the financial issue, but other teaching and learning concerns as well. An admixture of regulatory change, publishing technology, and extensive collaboration has combined to produce the inclusive access purchasing model.

Regulatory Changes

The United States Department of Education paved the way for the publishing industry and its partners to introduce inclusive access programs by altering the rules used to govern the items colleges and universities can incorporate within their tuition and fee structure. The rules now allow for the inclusion of course materials within tuition and fees if an institution has an
arrangement that makes supplies available at discount rates, provides a way for students to obtain supplies by the seventh day of the payment period, and offers a way for students to opt-out of the program.

Publishing Industry Changes

The global economy and the Internet have had a profound impact on how textbook publishers operate. A student's ability to source course materials either for free or at a steep discount has increased exponentially and has reinforced the need for publishers to provide less-expensive digital versions of their texts. The industry movement toward digital has been well underway for over a decade, but varying degrees of student and instructor receptiveness have kept publishers living in two worlds--one traditional and print-based, the other modern, digital and mobile. As publishers expanded their digital delivery options, prices fell, but only modestly—the reality and cost of producing dueling formats; and, the lack of a model by which publishers could offer steep discounts directly to students, hampered attempts to develop better purchasing options.

Does It Work?

The necessary changes in regulations and publisher capabilities have occurred; the promise of inclusive access stands ready to be fulfilled. The question now is: are schools willing to give it a shot? The answer is yes. Here are examples of schools that have piloted inclusive access models with staggering results:

The number of colleges and universities that are piloting, and embracing inclusive access continues to grow at a rapid pace. The model is scalable and thus empowers any professor, dean, or provost to ease their students' financial stress and debt.

Educational Lagniappe

In the linguistically and culturally rich city of New Orleans, there’s an oft-used term denoting generosity and the giving of “a little something extra.” The word is lagniappe.(Pronounced: /LAN-yap/.) Inclusive access comes with great educational lagniappe—an important consideration to factor in when contemplating adoption of the model. Studies have proven that students are more likely to succeed in a course if they have the correct materials starting on the first day of class. As professors, you know that the current “first day of class” climate is not optimal for teaching or learning
due to the variance of students’ accessibility to the required texts. Some students have the right text, others have the right text but a different edition, and others still, an international edition. Some use library copies, some share; some download pirated editions: the list of possibilities goes on and ends in chaos for you and underperformance by your most vulnerable students. With inclusive access, it no longer has to be this way. The second bit of lagniappe is one that benefits students, particularly students with limited financial resources. The current purchasing models force them to make a choice—to purchase books or not. Many students—traditional and non-traditional—often need to decide between spending money on course materials and spending money on essential living expenses. No one should be placed in such a position while striving to improve his or her life through education. The inclusive access model eliminates these high stakes decisions and enables students to focus on their education. Imagine stepping into your classroom on the first day of class and instructing students to open their digital text to a specific page. No hands are raised to inform you that they do not have their text, no complaints are leveled against bookstores regarding out of stock situations, no queries about which edition is genuinely needed—just a room full of students ready and able to learn, happy that a major stressor has been lifted from their shoulders. That’s some good lagniappe.

Image credit: webphotographeer/Getty Images

About the Author

Senior Marketing Manager, Wiley //

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