UT professors have a new idea to bring down the cost of course materials

Laura Doan

A committee of UT professors is trying to institute a program that has saved students millions of dollars on online course materials at other universities.

If the program, called inclusive-access, is adopted, UT students taking courses requiring online texts or courseware will be billed during registration for those materials. Jen Moon, chair of the committee spearheading the effort, Technology-Enhanced Education Oversight Committee, said these materials will be highly discounted by publishers. 

“It costs the University nothing to participate,” said Moon, associate professor of biology. “The publishers are actually the ones taking the hit to reduce cost, and they see a benefit because they have a guaranteed population of students associated with the course (to buy those materials).”

Moon said students at the University of Indiana saved $16 million in their course materials in the seven years following the program’s implementation, and students at the University of Alabama have saved $1.3 million since adopting the program in 2018.

Moon’s goal is to institute a pilot test of inclusive-access by fall 2020, and she said she invites any professors with online materials to participate.

“I’ve never met a professor who doesn’t want to save money for their students,” Moon said. “This is something wae’d all rally around.”


If UT institutes the program, the University Co-op could negotiate prices with the publishers. Cheryl Phifer, chief executive officer of the Co-op, and Michael Kiely, director of course materials at the Co-op, said they
support inclusive-access.

“We’re supportive of everything that’s good for students,” Phifer said. “We’re excited about the idea of them bringing this to UT.”

Moon said materials purchased through inclusive-access will be digitally available by the first class day, which could help students who normally delay in buying textbooks.

“There have been a number of studies that show that for every week a student delays in getting the required materials, their letter grade drops an average of half a grade,” Moon said. 

Moon said students can opt out of purchasing materials at registration, and any student who drops a class before the twelfth class day will
be refunded.

Business freshman Emily Zhou said she will buy her materials at registration if inclusive-access becomes available.  

“Almost half of my courses have had online textbooks so far or courseware that’s online,” Zhou said. “So, definitely if I could get that at reduced cost, that’d be nice.”