American Publishers Working to Improve Access, Affordability and Outcomes for College Students

by Kelly L. Denson

Working with colleges and universities across the country, American publishers are helping to ensure that students have access to affordable course materials on the first day of class through an innovation in course material delivery called Inclusive Access.

Inclusive Access really began to gain momentum in 2015 when the U.S. Department of Education issued federal guidance allowing institutions of higher learning to charge for course materials as part of tuition and fees, which meant that students could use financial aid to pay for the course materials they needed.

Since then, these course materials – known collectively as Inclusive Access – have rapidly gained traction on college campuses across the country. In fact, according to 2022 research from Student Watch, 39 percent of students acquired materials through Inclusive Access models, up from 15 percent in 2019.

Learn more about Inclusive Access and its benefits in this video:

The benefits of Inclusive Access range from first-day access, to affordability, to improving student outcomes for success.

Benefits of Inclusive Access

First Day Access for ALL Students

Students enrolled in an Inclusive Access course gain access on the first day of class to their instructor required course materials – promoting equity in education.

Lowest Market Rate

Required by DOE regulation, institutions can charge students the lowest market rate at scale for their instructor required course materials, within tuition and fees, so students can use financial aid money without delay.


Students don’t have to spend valuable time shopping around for the lowest price and/or waiting for their materials to arrive. Course materials are delivered seamlessly within their learning management system, no access codes needed.

Flexibility – Faculty and Student Choice

Faculty decide if Inclusive Access is right for their particular course and students have the ability to opt out if they wish to obtain their course materials a different way.

Improvements in Student Outcomes

ALL students receive access to high quality course materials by the first day of class ensuring they have the necessary resources to begin learning day-one. Research shows an increase in student success and completion for students – with the highest increases for under-represented populations such as Black students and students over 25 years old.*

Of course, education publishers continue to offer high-quality content through other models, including purchased or rented digital materials, individual learning apps, and digital subscription models.

But because Inclusive Access offers so many benefits it has quickly become the first choice for many educators and students. In fact, it is now being used at institutions in nearly all 50 states.

Moore, M., & Piazza, B. (2022). Inclusive Access Course Materials: An Analysis of Waukesha County Technical College’s Inclusive Access Program.
Moore, M. (2022). Equitable Access: A Participant v. Non-Participant Course Completion Rate Analysis from 2-Year Institutions.