How Bundling Textbooks into Tuition is Transforming the College Experience

The College Board estimates that it costs about $22,826 dollars on average per year for a student to attend a moderate college. Students spend an average of $1,200 a year on textbooks and supplies, an increase of 82% in the past decade.

What’s worse, these costs can affect student success. A recent U.S. Public Interest Research Group survey found that 65% of students didn’t purchase a required textbook due to cost, and 94% were concerned that it would hurt their grade in class.

With colleges vying to attract more students to their campuses, some are now able to differentiate themselves by offering students the cost of textbooks bundled in with tuition. This revolutionary approach not only provides a high level of convenience but is also one way to help students and parents cope with skyrocketing college costs by lowering the costs of textbooks and making them a budgeted expense.

In addition, the textbooks-in-tuition model enables students to use financial aid to pay for their books, which lowers the costs that they need to pay upfront.

A campus course materials management company is providing colleges with a break-through solution to cut textbook costs up to 50% for students. The technology-based solution (Rafter360) provides schools with a comprehensive textbooks-in-tuition model and automates the course materials process. The company has partnered with hundreds of campuses to help over 2 million students save more than $525 million on textbooks.

Two of the schools currently using this solution – Thomas More College in Kentucky and Schreiner University in Texas – have seen measurable results since implementing the textbooks-in-tuition program.

Schreiner University

Founded in 1923, Schreiner University is committed to preparing its students for ‘meaningful work and purposeful lives in a changing global society.’

Schreiner, like many private institutions, faced cost pressures. They needed a way to enhance the value of the university’s education to their students – and to reduce the risk associated with traditional textbook management.

In addition to lowering costs for students, Schreiner wanted to make sure that its students were prepared for class. Professors were increasingly concerned with students coming to class without books at the start of the semester and as a result, not engaging in their courses in the way they should be.

Schreiner takes its motto “learning by Heart” very seriously, and prides itself on a personalized student experience. The University realized that if it could provide a way for students to start the semester with everything the faculty members say they need to be successful in the course, then the campus is taking a large step forward in increasing the value of its degree. Schreiner ultimately decided to partner with a course materials management service.

President Dr. Tim Summerlin noted, “Schreiner has a strong heritage of learning built on close relationships, and we believe that we must wed that tradition with being perfectly comfortable with what the 21st century is offering in technology. We want to bring the human and the technological sides together.”

The technology-based system easily integrated with Schreiner’s learning management system (LMS) and student information system (SIS), to quickly capture student course materials. The bookstore was able to print out a pick list by book author and title, and students had their books in a matter of minutes, along with a detailed email receipt. Most books were bundled up and pre-packaged for students to make the process as seamless and easy as possible.

As a result, students now have 100 percent of their course materials on day one at up to 50 percent of traditional textbook costs.

Professors have the academic freedom to research and adopt course materials (in print or digital format) from a catalog of more than 11 million unique titles. They appreciate the solution’s ease-of- use and are able to hit the ground running knowing that when classes commence, students will be prepared for success.

In addition, 100 percent of students now come into the bookstore to get their textbooks, which has not happened in a long time. This increased foot traffic has turned the bookstore into a true campus hub for all students. Schreiner set out to create a value-driven initiative that would put its resources to work in creative ways, and with this system they feel that they are capturing a competitive advantage in the market and providing a valuable service to students.

Thomas More College

Armstrong thought the college could cut down on the use of third-party textbook contractors and bring the bookstore program in-house. He felt the college could do better by not having a large conglomerate managing book sales and distribution. The high cost of textbooks also meant that students time and again were coming to class without the required books and not prepared to learn on day one.Thomas More College was founded in 1921 and prides itself on out-of-the-box thinking on everything from academic programs to its bookstore. With technological disruption happening in higher education, President David Armstrong knew they had to fundamentally shift their thinking: “We wanted to be an innovator and out in front as a leader, not reactive.” When Armstrong joined as the college’s president, he immediately began looking at ways to help students and parents get an even better return on their education investment.

Thomas More partnered with the same company in order to better prepare students for success. The program can save schools time and money, improve student outcomes, decrease financial risk, and enable a college like Thomas More to better adapt to the complexity of the digital future. And with pricing intelligence built into the technology that analyzes past costs to uncover trends, patterns and other definition cost drivers, the school now has much more control over pricing. The process was also smooth from the student’s perspective. They simply show their ID card, get it scanned, and the bookstore has the books already pre-packed for them. It takes 30 seconds to hand them a bag full of course materials.

The heart of Thomas More College is not just education, but education with values. Armstrong believes the next textbook delivery system is helping Thomas More to not just retain students,but to attract more. In fact, enrollment at Thomas More in 2014 was up more than nine percent in a year when other schools face declining numbers. In addition, Thomas More has reported student savings of 55 percent on the costs of textbooks, and for the first time Thomas More has a campus bookstore that is more accommodating to students who live on campus, instead of a third-party leased store.

Both Schreiner University and Thomas More College are showing innovation and leadership by adopting new technology that can not only reduce costs for students but also greatly enhance their overall college experience and success rates. In the end, educating students fortomorrow is what really matters.

About the Author
Sara Leoni has more than 16 years of management, marketing and operations experience. Before becoming CEO of Rafter, Sara was Vice President of eCommerce and Marketing at BookRenter, Rafter's forerunner. Previously, she worked at Sharpcast, Cafepress and Yahoo! Personals. Sara has a B.A. from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.