As millions of college students head back to campus this month, they’ll embark on what’s become a dreaded, semi-annual ritual: buying textbooks and course materials. It’s a process that, according to a new survey by Morning Consult, brings significant financial stress for students about how they’ll afford their course materials and still pay for tuition, housing and food.
Students deserve a better way. And this year—for the first time ever—they’ll have it, thanks to a new subscription from Cengage that offers unlimited access to more than 20,000 digital course materials, including eBooks, online homework and study guides, for one price. Cengage, the largest U.S.-based education and technology company serving the higher education market, provides course materials to 11 million of the 20 million students pursuing higher education.
The subscription, called Cengage Unlimited, is now available for purchase directly from Cengage, online or at campus and off-campus bookstores. A subscription costs $119.99 a semester or $179.99a year. Considering students spend, on average, about $579 annually (with some spending significantly more), the subscription can save students up to half of what they were paying and, in some cases, even more. Students may use financial aid to purchase a subscription.
“For too long, our industry has contributed to the lack of affordable access to higher learning. Despite years of student and faculty complaints, the industry continued to push an outdated, traditional business model that didn’t put students first,” said Michael Hansen, CEO, Cengage.
“At Cengage, those days are over,” Hansen continued. “As a student-focused company, we have very deliberately embarked on a path to replace the industry’s century-old business model and offer students unlimited access to quality learning at an affordable price. We believe Cengage Unlimited will smash barriers to access for students by using the simple approach they already embrace in their daily lives, including movies, music and even health care.”
A Cengage Unlimited subscription offers access to thousands of digital products across 70 subjects and 675 courses—for one price, no matter how many Cengage materials they use. In addition, students using Cengage learning technology platforms, like MindTap or WebAssign, have the option of a print rental for $7.99 with free shipping. When their subscription ends, students retain reference access to their key course materials for the first year for free.
“Everyone knows the cost of books has become prohibitive to achieving a college degree. By going to this subscription format, Cengage Unlimited cuts the cost down dramatically,” said Dr. Will Austin, President of Warren County Community College (NJ). “The best way to think of this is like a Netflix or Hulu for textbooks: for a flat fee, students get every educational product created by the largest academic publisher in the United States, all at their fingertips, on their tablets, computer, or smart phone instantly.”
According to the Morning Consult survey, Today’s Learner: Student Views 2018, conducted on behalf of Cengage:
- Textbook Purchases Increase Student Stress: Eighty-five percent of current and former students say that their textbook and course material expenses are financially stressful, more so than meals and food (63 percent), healthcare (69 percent), housing (73 percent) and barely less stressful than tuition (88 percent).
- Students Sacrifice Food for Textbooks: Nearly half of current and former college students (43 percent) say they’ve saved money by skipping meals to afford course materials.
- Minority Students Are Disproportionally Impacted: Minority students are more likely to report taking fewer classes to save on textbook costs; African American students are 35 percent more likely to save money for books by skipping a trip home. Sixty-four percent of Hispanic students have opted not to buy the required textbooks or course materials.
- Women Find Paying for Textbooks and Course Materials to Be More Financially Stressful than Men (60 percent v. 48 percent): Sixty-four percent of women have purchased outdated versions of textbooks, compared to 57 percent of men; forty-seven percent of women have taken out a loan to pay for textbooks, compared to 38 percent of men.
- Students Make Costly Decisions to Cope with the Financial Burden: Almost seven in 10 students report having to get a job during the school year to pay for college textbooks; 43 percent have taken out a loan; and 31 percent have taken fewer classes to save on textbooks costs.
- Digital Access Drives Success: Digital is seen as a way to improve learning, with 81 percent of students saying easily accessible digital course materials would have a positive impact on their grades. When it comes to digital access, cost and affordability remain key: 72 percent of students say cost-effectiveness is very important when considering digital course materials.