- Dr. Tracy Hurley, dean of the College of Business at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, writes for eSchool News that a business school eTextbook program that rolled the costs of digital course materials onto students' financial aid packages has driven an average savings of $1,374 per student and increased the likelihood of completion.
- The eTextbook program preloads the digital course materials into the school's LMS around the first day of classes, with the costs added to tuition as a course fee that is factored into financial aid — a critical detail for a school where some 81% of undergrads qualified for aid this school year.
- Hurley also writes that, beyond savings, the program has also raised professors' confidence in students' abilities compared to when as many as 80% of students may not have purchased books during a semester, made it possible to progress through coursework faster, and increased convenience for students who no longer have to shop around for textbooks.
When considering how completion rates can be improved, the number of students dependent upon financial aid and the outside factors in their personal lives that could hinder completion must be taken into account. When recent revelations about food insecurity in higher ed are brought into the conversation, for example, there's the potential that a low-income student may have to choose between buying textbooks or buying food — and it's not hard to figure out which choice will and should be made there. Furthermore, an unexpected expense like a car repair for these students, who are likely also needing to work more hours on the side of their studies to make ends meet, could derail their path to completion all together.
The TAMUSA business school's eTextbook program is a smart one because it essentially makes course materials part of the cost of tuition, thus automatically covering it under financial aid and lowering the overall cost of attendance for students. But how it might play out at schools with higher tuition than TAMUSA's reported annual $4,000 per semester for in-state students taking 15 credit hours will have to be taken into account/ Another consideration is what those institutions might then do with their campus bookstore spaces as a result — but there are a few ideas for that floating around.