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Updates on Automatic Textbook Billing: New Information and Questions for CSCU

Jessica Vieira | Editor in Chief

QR Code to petition made by students against Automatic Textbook Billing


Starting in the Fall 2024 semester, there will be an automatic charge to students’ accounts that is meant to help pay for textbooks. It is called Automatic Textbook Billing. It is also referred to as ‘equitable access textbook initiative.’ This is an initiative put in place by Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) in contract with Barnes & Noble. Students will be charged $18.75 per credit hour. For the average five class schedule at Eastern, that would total around $281.25. Students will be able to opt out, however it has been confirmed that students will only be able to opt out after the charge has been made to their account, triggering then a reimbursement. This mechanic is used by UConn, called Husky Book Bundle. When this was implemented, a significant amount of UConn students opted out. 

With this policy in place, students will not own textbooks, they will rent the course material. At UConn, students receive PDFs and physical copies that they must return at the end of the semester. The idea is that it will help students save money on textbooks, but there has been no information or data provided by CSCU that proves this. 

CSCU released a request for proposal for Bookstore Management on April 13, 2023. In this request for proposal CSCU expressed “the desire for a possible equitable access textbook initiative” (page 3). Included in this request is the expectation that CSCU will receive “...lucrative financial value, in the form of commissions...” (page 4). They also asked for a five-to-ten-year plan for this to be in place at the CSCU Universities. 

The system office did not inform the student body and faculty of their intention to implement Automatic Textbook Billing. Because of this, it has left students and faculty feeling as though this policy and its purpose is to take advantage of students by withholding information. In reaction, students lead the opposition to this policy. Among many faculty who expressed their concern for this policy, Professor Nicolas Simon expressed the following. For him, some students who are in majors requiring expensive textbooks will benefit from this policy. However, students in majors in which faculty, concerned by the financial wellbeing of students and ask students to download free books and articles from the library website or use Open Educational Resources, will not benefit from this policy. There is also the fact that students doing internships, independent studies, physical science courses such as yoga, or art classes which require art supplies like brushes or paints likely will not benefit from this policy. Dr. Simon asks the question, how many students will benefit from this policy at Eastern, and how many will not? 

A pressing question raised by faculty at Eastern Connecticut State University is whether the policy is economically beneficial to students. 

The University of Central Florida had a similar modal of this policy, however since starting in 2019 the policy has been opt-in. Collectively, students saved $20 million. They had the option later to switch to opt-out, but thanks to student advocacy, the policy was kept as is. Because the policy is opt-in, if students miss out on the window to opt-in, they lose out on the discount rather than money. During the presentation "Is Opt-In the Future of 'Inclusive Access'?" held on Wednesday, February 28 at Eastern, it was highlighted that opting in benefits students who rely on financial aid to afford course materials. Typically, these students would have to manage without textbooks during the first week or two of class while waiting for financial aid. This impacts not only their finances but also their academic success. 

This policy will be announced in August by CSCU, but it is unknown whether the contract has been signed. Students and faculty believe that this policy would be better suited as an opt-in policy for CSCU rather than opt-out. Attached is a QR Code to a petition that students have created to voice their disagreement with this policy. Students are encouraged by their peers to sign and ensure that this policy does not get swept under the rug. 




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