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Home » College Affordability and Preparedness » The College Balancing Act: Weighing Costs and Outcomes

When it comes to the value of a college investment, costs are just one part of the equation. To get a true return on their investments, students need to stay in college, graduate and enter the workforce.

As the total cost of college and related student debt continues to rise, finding solutions to make college more accessible and affordable for all students remains critical.

One sign of progress is in the area of learning materials. Although course materials account for only 1 to 2 percent of overall college fees, the cost of those materials has steadily declined in recent years, thanks in large part to digital options and lower-cost print alternatives (source: NACS).

Still, affordability remains a top priority for companies like McGraw-Hill Education that provide these learning solutions.

Affordability first

“Our whole focus is student success; it’s why we come to work each day,” says Kent Peterson, vice president of marketing and commercial strategy at McGraw-Hill Education. “For us, that means providing affordable, engaging products that drive improved student outcomes. We’re proud of the progress we’re making on costs, but we won’t be satisfied until an education is within reach for every learner.”

One approach that McGraw-Hill Education has taken is partnering with college bookstores to offer textbook rentals. A rented book can save students as much as 70 percent off the purchase price of a hardcover textbook. Other affordable rental options include loose-leaf and eBook options.

Additionally, many students are now opting for digital alternatives to traditional print materials. That’s great news, because solutions like McGraw-Hill Connect aren’t just less expensive; they’re designed to help instructors teach and students learn more effectively. This digital courseware incorporates interactive content, assessment tools and actionable reporting, and students can study, prepare and practice anywhere, anytime. 

Another approach that’s lowering costs is called “Inclusive Access.” Through agreements with higher-education institutions and partnerships with campus bookstores, McGraw-Hill Education can provide its learning solutions as part of the semester’s tuition or course fees. Materials are available on the first day of class and accessed through a school’s Learning Management System. This approach enables institutions to leverage their purchasing power to significantly reduce costs for their students.

Despite the institution-level setup of Inclusive Access, academic freedom is maintained. Individual professors can still decide which course materials are best suited to the needs of their students and teach their course “their way.”

Better outcomes

The real proof of the digital Inclusive Access model is in the results — both savings and better student outcomes.

KCTCS — Somerset Community College recently conducted a pilot of McGraw-Hill Education’s Inclusive Access model with Connect. According to Jon Burlew, associate dean, the students in the “Intro to Psychology” class saved approximately $64 on course materials for that class.

The college serves an economically disadvantaged and rural population, so these savings made a significant difference. “When students save money on course materials, it frees up their funds for other things,” said Burlew.

What’s equally important is the impact on student performance. Overall enrollment is better, retention is up, and grades have improved.

Other faculty heard about the pilot class and wanted to offer the same cost savings to their students. “Soon,” said Burlew, “we discovered students were shopping around for classes based on Inclusive Access. Now every class in my division uses it.”

McGraw-Hill currently provides Inclusive Access at more than 500 campuses across the United States, and that number continues to grow.

“We want every student to have access to quality learning materials. But at the end of the day, student success is about whether students stay in school and graduate,” said Peterson. “Whether the institution has an Inclusive Access model or not, our job is to partner closely with instructors, providing high-quality content and tools to help students complete college prepared for productive, meaningful lives after graduation.”

Sue Poremba, [email protected]

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