Do ‘Inclusive Access’ Textbook Programs Save Students Money? A New Site Urges Everyone to Read the Fine Print

““Inclusive access,” a textbook-sales model touted as a way to ensure that students without deep pockets can afford books, doesn’t always deliver on that promise, according to a leading open-access advocacy organization. So the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition and its partners have launched a website they hope will encourage a healthy skepticism, and deeper research, into the increasingly popular model.

Inclusive access programs weave the cost of digital course materials into a student’s tuition and fees, and are marketed as a heavily discounted alternative to traditional print textbooks. More than 950 college campuses have adopted related programs since 2015, when a Department of Education regulation enabled institutions to include books and supplies in their tuition or fees.

But advocates of open educational resources like Nicole Allen, Sparc’s director of open education, worry that colleges — clamoring for low-cost textbook options — are buying into the model without knowing for sure whether it’s actually saving their students money, considering the breadth of used-book and rental options available….”

Affordable textbook programs save students $4.9 million | Nebraska Today | University of Nebraska–Lincoln

“Since 2019, affordable content programs have saved students an estimated $4.9 million on textbook costs, and have replaced over 80,000 textbooks with affordable content.

Multiple affordable textbook programs have been implemented at the University of Nebraska. There are two inclusive access programs: Follett Access (Campus Bookstore) and Unizin Engage. The third program is an OER seed grant program through the STAR initiative….”

Introducing InclusiveAccess.org — InclusiveAccess.org

“Against this backdrop, a new sales model known as Inclusive Access has taken off. Also known as automatic textbook billing, this model adds the cost of digital course content into students’ tuition and fees. Hardly known five years ago, one in three college students reported participating in at least one Inclusive Access course during the 2020-21 academic year.

How exactly does Inclusive Access work? Does it really really save students money? What about this kind of program is “inclusive”? Straightforward answers to these questions aren’t always easy to find.

InclusiveAccess.org is a community-driven initiative to raise awareness of the facts about automatic textbook billing. The site aims to be a one-stop-shop for information, tools, and other resources to help administrators, faculty, students, and policymakers make informed decisions about Inclusive Access and its implications for the campus community.

InclusiveAccess.org was developed by SPARC with generous support from the Michelson 20MM Foundation. Partners include AAC&U, Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, Creative Commons, DigiTex, Student PIRGs, Open Education Global, and OpenStax. …”

InclusiveAccess.org – The Facts on Automatic Textbook Billing

“Inclusive Access is a textbook sales model that adds the cost of digital course content into students’ tuition and fees. 

While Inclusive Access is intended to address high textbook costs, it also creates challenges for students and faculty. The higher education community deserves to understand the facts….

Inclusive Access, also known as automatic textbook billing, is a sales model for college textbooks. Temporary digital content is delivered to students by the first day of their course, often through a learning management system. Students have a short period to “opt out” before they are automatically billed for the content as part of their tuition and fees. At the end of the course, students lose access. 

Inclusive Access is known by a variety of names including First Day, ACCESS, All Access, Auto Access, Course Material Fee, Day One Access, Equitable Access, and Immediate Access….”