How San Diego State Plans To Save Students $2M In Textbooks This Semester

Aug 21, 2018 by

Some San Diego State University students may actually spend less this back-to-school season, thanks to a program aimed at curbing the cost of textbooks.

The university is making a pilot program called Immediate Access official this year, after trying it out for two years. It allows students to access online textbooks for some classes at no cost, the moment they enroll in a class. If they decide to stay in the class, they can then keep the e-book for a reduced fee.

Many of them do, and that’s allowed the university to negotiate special pricing.

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“When this first started, it was about 89 or 90 percent of the students opting in,” said Linda Woods, an instructional designer in the school’s Instructional Technology Services department.

“Now, I think we’re up to, like, 94 or 96 percent of students opting in. So when publishers are guaranteed that they’re going to sell to that level, they’re willing to negotiate the price down.”

Video by Matthew Bowler

Woods said studies show more than half of students don’t buy the physical textbooks assigned in their general education courses. With Immediate Access, publishers have agreed to cut the price by about 20 percent.

ITS Director James Frazee said students save more this way, even if they were to sell their textbooks at the end of the semester.

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This year, some 300 classes are offering the program.

“I think it’s going to impact about 20,000 students this fall with savings of close to $2 million, relative to what they would have paid if they purchased a physical, full-cost textbook,” Frazee said.

He said the online books, which allow students to highlight text and type notes into electronic margins, are also a win for educators. Rather than waiting for students to decide whether they’re staying in the class and buying a book, professors can dig in on day one. Data on how students use the online text, such as how often they reread sections, can help instructors improve their courses.

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Unlike other universities, SDSU’s program requires students to opt out of the book subscription, meaning they must proactively unsubscribe before the school adds the book fee to the rest of their student fees. Frazee said the university is diligent about giving students information and multiple warnings so they understand the process.

The university is also helping professors bring the cost down to zero, by encouraging them to adopt open source textbooks with free licensing.

U.S. college graduates owe, on average, $35,000 in student loans. California State University graduates owe about half that.

KPBS is a service of San Diego State University.

Source: How San Diego State Plans To Save Students $2M In Textbooks This Semester | KPBS

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