by Jennifer Becker (Executive Director, Enterprise Partnerships, Higher Education Group, McGraw-Hill Education)
Last year, OhioLINK became the first state-wide entity, as well as library consortium, to work with McGraw-Hill and other publishers to negotiate the reduction of the cost of course materials throughout an entire state’s higher education system through inclusive access.
McGraw-Hill’s inclusive access ensures that each student in a class automatically has an electronic version of their course materials on day one, at a price that is up to 75 to 80 percent less than a traditional print textbook. Most often in inclusive access a fee is automatically assessed upon enrollment in the class, which is paid alongside tuition through the bursar’s office or bookstore. Students who decide to drop the course on or before the institution’s designated add/drop date are not charged or refunded. Also, there’s an “opt-out” institutions can make available to students who wish not to purchase. McGraw-Hill also makes available a very low-cost print upgrade option for those who aren’t ready to go all digital.
“We conducted a large study that showed that students who had their course materials on the first day of class maintained class averages some 20 points higher than those who bought them two weeks later,” says Jennifer Becker, executive director of partnerships at McGraw-Hill Education. “As a company we recognized there was a need to go back to basics. Ensuring the education community has comprehensive, reliable instructional resources is of upmost importance to us. But, it must be done at a price that students can afford.”
“I truly never thought about a library system championing this,” continues Becker, who typically works with academic departments and campus bookstores. “I knew they were the owners of institutional content, but I never knew they had influence on individual course materials for students. The sense I get from some librarians I’ve spoken to is that they are excited to be part of the state, system or institution’s affordability initiative in this way. They’ve really embraced it.”
OhioLINK and McGraw-Hill first joined forces on lowering the cost of course materials through inclusive access following the library consortium’s request for information (RFI) to publishers, eBook platforms providers, wholesalers and distributors in November of 2017. OhioLINK looked at capabilities to implement, distribute and manage course materials via an inclusive access model as well as pricing for content, platforms and services. Following presentations and negotiations, OhioLINK chose four large publishers, including McGraw-Hill, to offer the significantly-reduced pricing to all 91 of its member colleges and universities, Becker says.
Prior to OhioLINK negotiating the deal announced in March 2018, a limited number of Ohio colleges and universities had implemented inclusive access.
“When meeting with institutions to discuss inclusive access, we would hear ‘I don’t know if we can do this’ or ‘I don’t know if we can include course materials as a fee along with the tuition,’” says Becker. “There was a lot of uncertainty.”
OhioLINK, she says, removed barriers. “They really are getting out there and promoting, saying ‘This is ok, the Ohio Board of Higher Education wants institutions to take advantage of this this model,’” Becker says. “We’ve since seen a pick-up in not only the number of institutions who have implemented it but the number of professors who have opted in to do inclusive access with their course.” In 2018 alone through inclusive access, McGraw-Hill was able to save Ohio students $2.7 million on course materials over what was spent the previous year for the same materials.
Business programs have led the way, Becker says, followed by science, engineering and math courses. Humanities have been a bit slower to adopt.
“We now know that libraries are playing a critical role,” says Becker. “An academic library consortium has a stake in the ground when it comes to the affordability of course materials, as much as your procurement, auxiliary services or academic departments do. We’re excited that OhioLINK has opened their door to us.”
McGraw-Hill has also partnered with OhioLINK in educating the academic community about the benefits of inclusive access. “McGraw-Hill Education is proud to be working with OhioLINK and appreciates their partnership throughout this learning experience,” says Becker. She adds that OhioLINK’s Gwen Evans, Amy Pawlowski and Holly Davis “have been amazing to work with.”
“They’ve really come at this with an open-minded approach and been truly interested to learn what we’ve done in the past with other institutions to make this program successful,” she says, “and making sure I’m aware of any challenges and needs they have so I can address them up front.”
The partnership has led McGraw-Hill Education to reach out to other library consortiums across the country to open a dialogue and begin to include institutions’ librarians into the conversations happening amongst the individual campuses. “Now we know they also have an interest in making course materials more affordable to students,” says Becker. “We want to make sure we are not overlooking them but instead starting to collaborate on various ways to meet the students’ needs. We would be thrilled for the opportunity to work more closely with the library community.”
McGraw-Hill has inclusive access agreements with over 400 college campuses nationwide, and with its significantly-reduced pricing has saved students more than $40 million in 2018 over the same products purchased by these institutions in 2017. For example, the retail cost of a new chemistry book is roughly $195. “And maybe you would wait to buy the book three weeks into the course because you didn’t think it was absolutely imperative to your course grade,” says Becker. With inclusive access, all students enrolled in the class have immediate access to the book through an institution’s learning management system — at a price of approximately $45.
“Not only are the students saving money,” says Becker, “they are getting access on day one, which helps to improve retention and outcomes.”
According to NACS the estimated annual student spend on course materials has fallen from $701 per student in 2007-2008 to $484 per student. (2017-2018 edition of Student Watch: Attitudes and Behaviors toward Course Materials from the National Association of College Stores.)