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Textbook Access Program Saving Money, Time for UH Students

Coogs Saved More Than $10M on Textbooks During 2023-24 Academic Year

Stack of books

It’s no secret that textbooks are one of the unforeseen costs contributing to student debt. Nationwide, university students pay approximately $1,200 annually for the books they need. Add that to tuition, fees, cost of living and other expenses, and they face another financial hurdle on their academic journeys.

The University of Houston, however, has been taking the guesswork out of budgeting for textbooks. Through the Cougar Textbook Access Program (CTAP), UH provides all undergraduate students with the books they need for a flat fee—$299 for fall and spring and $180 for summer. Texts and materials are available digitally or via hard copies available in the UH Bookstore.

CTAP has proven convenient for students, but more importantly, it’s proven to be a major cost cutting initiative. During this academic year, the program has saved UH students more than $10 million on their textbooks.

“CTAP has removed the financial stressors and inconveniences that come with the use of virtual textbooks and has allowed me to focus more on learning,” said Christian Avalos, a student in UH’s C. T. Bauer College of Business.

Fellow Coogs concur with his assessment of CTAP’s cost-effectiveness.

“CTAP has definitely been a cost-saving initiative,” said Alyssa Green, liberal studies major. “I have been able to compare and contrast how much I would pay without CTAP. CTAP always has come out to be cheaper, especially in classes with large textbooks and long reading lists.”

Aside from savings, the program allows UH students to focus on what’s important—their classes.

Both Avalos and Green said that the convenience of simply having course materials ready and waiting at the bookstore if not available online is a game changer.

“It was often a struggle to find the right class materials,” Avalos added. “There was a constant fear of mistakenly purchasing the wrong textbooks or bundles. Now, I only need to sign in to my course, access the platforms set by instructors, and smoothly start my work.”

Avalos and Green’s experiences with CTAP have been shared with students across the UH System (UHS). Each UHS institution is utilizing the same textbook access program (although branded differently for their respective students) and reporting significant savings.

A breakdown of savings across the UH System (UH-Clear Lake, UH-Downtown, UH-Victoria) from Fall 2023 through Spring 2024 is as follows:

UH          $10,250,000

UHCL      $47,000

UHD       $163,000

UHV         $212,000

Total    $10,672,000

 “A student once told me that because of costs, they were sometimes forced to wait two weeks into the semester before they could purchase their course materials. CTAP ensures our students don’t have to wait for their books. We want to make sure all students start ready to learn,” said Emily Messa, UH senior associate vice president for administration.

Student reading a book in Cullen Family Plaza

UH began piloting CTAP in spring 2022 for select courses. That semester, students in those participating classes saved $2.9 million on books and course materials. CTAP officially launched for all undergraduate University students in fall 2023.

Faculty also are sharing students’ enthusiasm for this program as lessons aren’t delayed due to students not having their books or materials on time.

“CTAP has created a seamless transition into the semester for myself and for my students,” said Lisa Farmer, assistant professor of biology. “By having automatic access to the textbook and online homework platform, students have not delayed in reading the textbook or beginning the assignments. They’ve also not had the ordering and registration issues that were typical of previous semesters and other sections.”

CTAP is another example of student success initiatives at the University of Houston. This and other programs are aimed at supporting students’ academic performance while helping reduce student debt. Other programs available to students are UH in 4, which is focused on helping students graduate on time with less debt and Houston Guided Pathways to Success, an initiative that streamlines the transition from community college to UH.

“We listen to our students and their needs,” Messa said. “CTAP is a perfect example of that. Our students can use their financial aid to pay for their course materials, so they don’t have to worry about out-of-pocket expenses. They also don’t have to stress about making sure they have the right textbook editions. With CTAP, we make it possible for learning to begin at UH on day one of every semester.”

Story by Mike Emery

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