textbook challenge

How one school beat the textbook dilemma


As the college’s leaders contemplated their options to try and reduce textbook costs for students, Tobin
remembered a conference presentation given by another university leader, which focused around textbook costs and a solution from a company called Rafter360.

“When did books become an optional part of learning? Once we began to think about it that way, Rafter’s
solution became very attractive,” Tobin said.

Rafter360’s model helps colleges and universities incorporate textbook costs into tuition and fees. While
other textbook-purchasing models may have worked in theory by giving students and faculty a place to locate and purchase textbooks, those models still did not solve the original problem of students having to decide whether or not to purchase textbooks. Under Rafter360’s model, students receive all required course materials and textbooks at the beginning of each term.

The college rolled textbook costs into tuition the same way costs associated with athletic fields, libraries,
and classroom equipment are rolled into tuition.

“We had quite a bit of student pushback when we first announced this, but when we rolled it out last fall, all complaints went away,” she said. In fact, college leadership was quick to hold town hall meetings to
address students’ concerns and questions about the new model.

Tobin said she’s hopeful the model will result in better-prepared students who, as a result, demonstrate
higher achievement.

“We hope that the education we provide will be an experience that transcends any issues that students
brought with them to college,” she said. “…I think this model has the potential to really help students.”

Laura Ascione