Wright State pilot project has saved students more than $56,000 on textbooks, online access

Under a pilot project, Wright State is negotiating lower prices for textbooks and online access content on behalf of its students.

A pilot project at Wright State University called Inclusive Courseware that promises to dramatically reduce the cost of textbooks and/or online access content for students has saved them more than $56,000, an average savings of 40 percent.

The results were presented to the Wright State Board of Trustees on Feb. 16.

Nine high-enrollment courses participated in the spring semester pilot. Estimates for an expanded pilot in the fall semester involving 40 courses are for a savings of about $300,000 for courses utilizing printed textbooks and $110,000 for courses utilizing e-books.

In addition, a textbook auto-adopt policy is being implemented on a limited basis for fall semester. The Wright State Bookstore anticipates using the policy to adopt textbooks for between 100 and 150 courses and conservatively estimates savings at $200,000.

Wright State is collaborating on a study on the cost of textbooks with institutions in the Inter-University Council of Ohio (IUC), an association of Ohio’s public universities.

Each institution will determine the cost of the highest enrollment major in each of eight areas, which will cover more than half of the undergraduate student enrollment. Wright State will work with the Barnes and Noble bookstore to obtain costs of new, used, rental and e-books for the selected majors.

Wright State’s “inclusive access” pilot project enables the university to negotiate the price of textbooks and online access content on behalf of its students, using their collective power.

Professor Dan Krane, chair of the Ohio Faculty Council and chair of the Wright State Task Force on Affordability and Efficiency, has been on a team developing the program from the start. He says textbook costs have significantly outpaced inflation for the past 15 to 20 years, a trend that studies have shown has adversely affected student performance and the way faculty teach courses.

Students sometimes choose not to buy the textbook or online access content and try to muddle through the course without it, putting them at a significant academic disadvantage. Other students may delay buying the textbook, forcing faculty to get the class off to a slower start and reducing the overall effectiveness of classroom instruction.

“Wright State University is proving that better negotiating for college textbooks works for students,” said State Rep. Mike Duffey, chair of the standing House Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development. “Professor Krane and Ohio Faculty Council are also proving we can do this collaboratively, with university faculty helping lead the way.”

Students know they are benefiting from the pilot program when they see the description “Inclusive Courseware” for a fee that will be associated with the course when they register.

If inclusive access was adopted by all of Ohio’s four- and two-year public colleges and universities, Krane says, it would save students at least $300 million a year.

Currently, individual students order textbooks through the bookstore and are charged “list price” by the publisher. With the Wright State Inclusive Courseware approach, the university orders textbooks through the bookstore for all of the students who need them and gives the publisher the price the university is willing to pay.

The publisher then gives the university the list of textbooks it is willing to sell at that price. If the faculty member agrees that one of the textbooks is acceptable, then it’s a deal. If not, the faculty member selects the textbook he or she wants, and the students pay list price, as they have done before the program was available.

Students are charged an Inclusive Courseware fee to cover the cost of the textbooks when they pay tuition, but they can opt out of that fee if they choose to buy textbooks on their own. The handful of institutions that have used inclusive access typically get textbooks for 50 to 70 percent below list price and much less than the wholesale prices, Krane says.

He said publishers have an incentive to use inclusive access because they currently capture only about 30 percent of the textbook market for a class since many students choose to not buy the textbook or to buy a used book or a book from a wholesaler. Inclusive access would give publishers virtually 100 percent of the market, he said.

The pilot project comes in the wake of a recommendation by the Governor’s Task Force on Affordability and Efficiency in Higher Education that all institutions of higher education in Ohio explore means of reducing the cost of textbooks and report annually on their progress.

Members of the working group included Krane; Austin Rains, student member of the Board of Trustees; David Baugham, Student Government president; Thomas Fenton, chair of the Faculty Senate Undergraduate Student Success Committee; Jennifer Gebhart, manager of the Wright State Bookstore; history professor Carol Herringer; Nova Lasky, director of strategic initiatives and stakeholder relations in the Division of Business and Finance; Jamie Norris, director of auxiliary services for Business Services; and Craig Woolley, the university’s chief information officer.

Members of the implementation group included Bursar Steve Sherbet; Registrar Amanda Steele-Middleton; Daniel Palmer, of the Student Government Association; Amy Barnhart, assistant vice president and director of financial aid; and several members of the working group.

To apply to Wright State visit wright.edu/admissions.

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