New Textbook Access Program Makes Course Materials More Affordable for Students

University of Houston System Board of Regents Approves Permanent Plan at UH, Pilot Programs Across UH System

Textbooks online
CTAP allows students convenient and equitable access to course materials on or before the first day of class at significant savings over purchasing new retail books.

The University of Houston System Board of Regents has approved a new program to make textbooks and course materials available for undergraduate students at a fraction of the current cost of new course materials.  

The board voted this week to make permanent the successful pilot of the Cougar Textbook Access Program (CTAP), which began in the spring 2022 semester at the University of Houston. The board also approved pilot programs to begin at UH-Downtown, UH-Clear Lake and UH-Victoria. 

“CTAP is an exciting program which allows students convenient and equitable access to course materials on or before the first day of class, and at significant savings over purchasing new retail books,” said Diane Chase, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, UH System, and senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at UH.  

By implementing the program on a semester basis for all undergraduate students at UH beginning this fall, the projected per-semester student savings could be as high as $6.4 million, with a weighted average savings of $254 per student. 
Since last spring, 52,454 students have participated in the pilot program, saving more than $2.9 million off the price of new course material retail pricing.  

CTAP provides convenient and seamless delivery for course materials, saves students between 40-60% off new textbook prices, enables the University to bill students on their fee bill for course materials and enables students to use their direct financial aid to pay for course materials. 

UH students will pay $299 per semester for fall and spring and $180 for summer to gain access to their semester course materials and may opt out if they are not interested in participating. 

“Students will see the charge for course materials when registering for their classes and will have the option to opt-out of the program until the official registration date (twelfth class day),” said Messa. “Digital materials will be loaded into the learning management system and physical materials will be available to be picked up for no additional cost at the campus store or shipped from the UH System campus stores for a nominal fee.”  

UH-Downtown, UH-Clear Lake and UH-Victoria will implement per-course pilot programs, with a goal of expanding the program to include more students and courses after phasing in the per-course program, similar to the phasing approach at UH. 

In fall 2020, the University of Houston formed the Learning Material Affordability Task Force to explore ways to significantly lower course material costs for students. Specifically, the task force was charged with developing learning material affordability options and recommending best practice solutions to meet the University’s unique needs.  

The pilot was conducted through voluntary participation of interested faculty, and included materials that were e-book or digitally available. In surveys of participating UH students, 85% said they prefer all their classes to be offered with CTAP included. Eighty-seven percent of participating faculty surveyed said the CTAP method of course delivery was better or much better than other methods of obtaining course materials. 

“CTAP results have been phenomenal during its pilot phase proving the need and desire of students and faculty alike to make learning materials affordable. We are proud to offer these advantages to our students to support their success,” said Chase. 

“Phenomenal” is not an overstatement. Students have been overwhelmingly supportive since the pilot program began. Natalie Silva is a junior at the UH College of Technology and said the program has proven to be valuable. 

“When I heard about it, I was like, ‘That sounds super cool’ and I wanted to be a part of it. The part I always hated in my first couple semesters was spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks and then wondering if I really needed the books because they are so expensive. CTAP makes it all so much easier and affordable.”