Taking advantage of the Equitable Textbook Access program

By: Mark Siquig and Melody Ortiz

Data from two California universities shows promising results from students after implementing the Equitable Access program (EA), or Equitable Textbook Access program (ETA), which allows students to get all their required books for a flat rate each semester.

University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and San Diego State University (SDSU) have implemented this new digital system with Cal State Long Beach following in their footsteps.

The UC Davis program provides every undergraduate student access to their textbooks by the first day of class for $169 per quarter. The SDSU program provides undergraduate students access to all their required textbooks on the first day of class, all for $19.75 per credit.

Both universities have seen success following their implementation, according to the UCD annual reports. Student participation in the program increased from 53% to 69% from 2020-21 to 2021-22.

UC Davis first implemented the program in 2020. According to their annual report, “The cost to students was reduced by 15%, from $199 to $169 per term.”

San Diego State University implemented the program in 2022.

“According to multiple studies performed prior to the launch of Equitable Access in Fall 2022, 75% of SDSU undergraduate students waited until after the start of classes to acquire course materials,” said Cory Marshall, the senior director of media relations at SDSU.

Marshall said 70% of undergraduate students opted to stay enrolled in the program when it started, with 74% in Spring 2023. This percentage increased to 78% in Fall 2023. He says students receive reminders of the opt-out option multiple times before the deadline through signage, email, social media and Canvas.

Although Equitable Textbook Access is offered to all students regardless of major, it would benefit certain students more than others. STEM majors tend to have more expensive class materials than other hands-on majors like journalism and the arts.

CSULB students are encouraged to consider alternative options if it is cheaper than paying the flat rates of $250 for full-time students and $165 for part-time students.

“I do think it’s helpful to students because one textbook can easily cost more than what their flat rate is,” first-year pre-nursing major Alison Curd said.

“It might be a little bit difficult for students to adapt to the digital, but it might make your purse strings hurt less so that could be helpful.”

Curd has spent about $275 to $300 on textbooks this past semester. She would be saving money if ETA had started sooner.

“I think it is possible for me to have an online textbook just because I am not writing a ton of annotations in my texts or anything like that,” Curd said. “Possibly if you were like an English major or a history major it might be a little difficult, but I do think like for STEM majors I don’t think it would be a horrible transition.”

“I definitely think it’s a better option and for me personally. I like the paperback books, but I will probably do the online system just because I rather get a cheaper price than spending a bunch of money on paperback,” said Alexis Suttle, a second-year double-major in psychology and sociology.

A survey taken by UC Davis students that participated in EA showed most students found it easier and more convenient to partake in the program than find textbooks on their own.

The second most-voted answer was that students saved money on textbooks. A survey for non-participating UC Davis students showed the most-voted reason for opting out was that they had alternatives that costed less than $199.

The goal of the program is to help students save money and for students to have first day access to materials for convenience and equity. Students will be charged the same flat price regardless of major.

“It sounds like a good idea, each student should do their own research on their classes,” Suttle said. “To know if they’re actually getting a good deal with that.”

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