Schools link textbooks to retention, graduation rates

Institutions move to wrap textbooks into tuition costs.

textbooks-retentionData from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that textbook prices have risen over three times the rate of inflation from January 1977 to June 2015, a 1,041 percent increase. Many say these costs can directly affect student success.

Students that are electing not to purchase textbooks are unprepared to learn at the start of classes. This impacts the professors as well, who recognize that the students lacking course materials will not be engaging in their courses in the way they should be and are at risk for lower grades.

Rafter, a course materials management company, has announced that several colleges and universities have committed to using Rafter360, a technology-based solution that provides campuses with a comprehensive textbooks-in-tuition model.

Schools include Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, N.C., Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vt., the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., Illinois College in Jacksonville, Ill., and Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kan. Rafter has partnered with hundreds of campuses to help 2.7 million students save $670 million on textbooks.

“My office tracks retention, withdrawals, and helps to support students who are struggling academically. The problem was clear that many students didn’t have the books and it directly influenced their learning. We needed a way to get books in the hands of students and it had to provide flexibility for the faculty, and be relatively simple. Rafter360 was the solution that could provide us with what we needed,” said Liz Tobin, Provost at Illinois College.

A recent U.S. Public Interest Research Group survey found that 65 percent of students didn’t purchase a required textbook due to cost, and 94 percent were concerned that it would hurt their grade in class. Amid declining student retention and success rates, ensuring that students have their materials on the first day of class has become the first line of defense for campuses in improving students’ chances for success.

“Our students were leaving for financial reasons and when we dug deeper, we found it wasn’t always housing or tuition that caused them to separate from the college. Many times, we found that our students didn’t have their books, were falling behind and were finding themselves unable to continue,” said Larry Mirabal, CFO at the Institute of American Indian Arts. “We had to do something and Rafter had exactly the solution we were looking for: to partner with the Institute and the bookstore to guarantee books would be in students’ hands on day one.”

Rafter360’s textbooks-in-tuition model provides students with 100 percent of their assigned materials by the first day of class for a flat rate price that can save them over 50 percent in textbook costs. The reduced fees are incorporated into tuition.

Rafter360 empowers professors with the academic freedom to research and adopt course materials (in both print and digital format) from a catalog of more than 20 million unique titles, plus other titles they wish to add. Professors appreciate the solution’s ease-of-use and are able to hit the ground running knowing that when classes commence, students will have all of their materials.

“We’re thrilled to have these renowned colleges and universities sign up with Rafter and commit to lowering the cost of textbooks and preparing their students for success,” said Sara Leoni, CEO of Rafter. “It’s been amazing to hear from the schools that launched Rafter360 that our program was a tool that enabled them to address core issues on their campus around retention, persistence, and graduation rates, as well as overall student success.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione