No more textbook worries: Cengage Unlimited provides access to over 20,000 course materials for one set fee

Isabella Gentile, Features Editor

A new school year looms on the horizon. Based on RWU’s 2018-2019 rates, students who are paying tuition and have the lowest price room and board plan are still hovering at over $40,000 in expenses. 

All of these expensive costs arise, and yet students are still left wondering: how are they going to pay for textbooks?

Students may find some financial relief this year with the launch of Cengage Unlimited. Cengage Learning, the largest US-based provider of teaching and learning materials for higher education, developed a new subscription service for students that released in the fall of 2018. Here, they can access over 20,000 digital course materials, including eBooks, online homework and study guides, for one flat rate of $119.99 for the semester, or $179.99 for the year.

The creation of this program stems from a survey that Morning Consult conducted on Cengage’s behalf in 2018. It revealed staggering statistics about the number of students who make sacrifices in order to be able to afford textbooks. According to their data, 43 percent of current and former college students say they have skipped meals in order to save money for necessary course materials. Additionally, 85 percent of current and former students say that buying textbooks is financially stressful, with many saying it is more so than food, healthcare, and housing. Kristina Massari, Director of Public & Media Relations at Cengage, said that “this survey was eye-opening for [them].”

These findings along with the pleads of students to listen to their struggles are what led to the launch of Cengage Unlimited, which the company hopes will play a huge role in providing financial relief for students. Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage, took part in an interview with the Hawks’ Herald to describe the new program and its benefits for college students.

The set price for the service, at $119.99 a semester, is its largest benefit. There is even a savings calculator on the Cengage website that allows students to input the books they need before purchasing the program to see how much the savings will be. A student who needs five books that cost $100 could save $380 with this service. There is another added benefit for students who prefer to read texts in print over digital copies; the program allows students to order print rentals of their textbooks for only $7.99 each with free shipping.

When referencing the anticipated favoring of this type of online program, Hansen said, “We believe that this is the right model for students. Think of Spotify, Netflix, and other popular subscription services.”

Another great benefit of the program is that students can purchase it using their financial aid. As long as the bookstore at one’s university accepts financial aid, then it can be used for rental purposes. Cengage is truly aiming to lessen the financial burden on students in any way they can.

In order to understand how significant of a program this is, it is key to note that for many years, and even still today, there are textbook companies who have been part of the issue of extremely high book prices. Cengage recognizes its own faults in the long line of increasing textbook costs. According to Hansen, the company was part of the high cost problem for a long time. 

“Textbook publishing models were very convenient for the publishers, but not for the students,” he said.

Hansen says that he is most proud about the students’ reactions to the program. Since its release, the program has garnered over 500,000 subscribers, many of whom have given positive feedback about the new service. 

“Students are saying that someone finally cares about the affordability issue, which is very painful for them,” he said.

RWU students can attest to the expensive costs of textbooks, and the seemingly outrageous amount of money that it costs to purchase course materials throughout a college career.

Sophomore biology major, Olivia Franco, said, “With the amount of money I’ve spent on textbooks since starting college, I could buy a new car. I would definitely look into a program that could potentially get me all of my textbooks for one price.”

Textbook cost-related worries for RWU students and students across the nation could become a notion of the past if they sign up for this service. Cengage reports that this program is projected to save U.S. college students around $60 million.

“We are very excited about the reception that we have received from students so far. They say it is great and that they love it. It is such a fundamentally better experience for them,” Hansen said.

Cengage Unlimited is available for purchase on the RWU Barnes and Noble website, and interested students can find more information about the program at