Addressing affordability in light of the pandemic

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the disparities in higher education have been further illuminated and affordability has come under even greater scrutiny. With students stressed—both emotionally and financially—and faculty voicing concerns, institutions are under increasing pressure to provide more affordable learning—without compromising quality.

But affordability in higher education goes beyond the price of tuition. The high cost of textbooks and other course materials is a major factor that is negatively impacting students and their chances of success. 

Ironically, despite all of the havoc COVID-19 has brought to higher education, it may also point the way to new strategies to address the affordability crisis. With the mass forced migration to remote learning this spring, there has been a corresponding growth in the adoption of new teaching and learning strategies. Institutions across the country are having to rethink their traditional approaches to course materials and turn to new digital models that are greatly improving both the access and the affordability of resources for faculty and students. 

Of these new approaches, three predominant models have emerged:

1. Subscription Models

These plans all differ slightly but in general offer students day-one access to a full digital catalog of learning materials across courses for one price.

2. Inclusive Access

Working with publishers and campus bookstores, institutions provide digital textbooks to all students within individual classes, the cost of which is folded into tuition. 

3. Open Educational Resources (OER)

A set of freely adaptable, reusable, and sharable materials that allow instructors the freedom to copy and paste relevant content to fit their needs. 

By employing these new approaches to course materials, institutions are ensuring easier and less expensive access to textbooks and course materials for their students. In addition to student savings, there is a correlation with improved classroom performance and student well-being, as well as immediate payoffs for colleges looking to move the needle on student success. 

One such institution is Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana. As the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system, administrators knew that affordability was a major concern and obstacle to success.

“We know nationally, about a quarter of students choose not to buy their textbooks. Many of our students are making the difficult choice between buying their textbooks or even food. And so, by doing inclusive tuition, all students will be prepared for the first day of class and have access to the most updated texts,” says Dominick Chase, Vice President of Finance and Strategic Sourcing at Ivy Tech. 

Hear from Dominick how Ivy Tech partnered with Cengage to implement a digital subscription-based model to bring inclusive tuition to over 90,000 students across 40 locations, providing students affordable, day-one access to all the learning materials, resources and support needed for their success.

To learn more about implementing affordable access to course materials at your institution visit,

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