Course materials management technology enhancing the student experience.
GUEST COLUMN | by Bill Muse
Founded in 1923, Schreiner University is committed to preparing its students for ‘meaningful work and purposeful lives in a changing global society.’ Schreiner, like many private institutions, faced cost pressures as well as declining revenue in its on-campus bookstore. We needed a way to enhance the value of the university’s education to our students — and to reduce the risk associated with traditional textbook management.
Even better, 100 percent of students now come into the bookstore, which has not happened in a long time.
In addition to reducing costs for students, we wanted to keep the bookstore a viable enterprise, primarily because we wanted to maintain this point of student interaction. At Schreiner, we take our motto “learning by Heart” very seriously, and we pride ourselves on our personalized student experience. At the same time, we knew that the business model in the bookstore had to change. Ever since the 2008 financial crisis, recession and aftermath, everyone in higher education knew a change had occurred and that things were not going back to the way they were. Rentals, online buying and the HEOA (Higher Education Opportunity Act) all have had an impact on the traditional bookstore business model.
Rising textbook costs and alternative options also had an adverse impact to bookstore financials. Year-end reports continuously reflected a downward trend in textbook sales. In addition, unpredictable sell-through made forecasting challenging, and our campus bookstore often had to juggle inventory to prevent over- or under-stocking. In addition, professors were also increasingly concerned with students coming to class without books at the start of the semester and as a result, not engaging in their courses in the way they should be.
Higher Ed, Lower Cost
The university believed the bookstore cost issue could be solved by having a program that would supply all students from one central provider. We ultimately decided to partner with Rafter, a course materials management solutions provider that has partnered with hundreds of campuses and saved students more than $400 million in course materials costs.
Their program provides students with 100 percent of their assigned materials for one flat rate — up to 50 percent off traditional textbook costs. We knew we would have to increase tuition and fees to cover the cost, but that ultimately we would save students money and set the stage for student success. Students aren’t asked if they want to live in a clean, safe resident hall, or take part in the meal plan — it’s all provided for them in tuition because it improves the learning experience. The bundled textbook concept from their program was the same idea and should not be any different than any other component we provide.
The program easily integrated with Schreiner’s learning management system (LMS) and student information system (SIS), to quickly capture student course materials. Our bookstore was able to print out a pick list by book author and title, and students had their books in a matter of minutes, along with a detailed email receipt. Most books were bundled up and pre-packaged for students to make the process as seamless and easy as possible. Prior to using this solution, students would sometimes have to wait in long lines, and still might not get the right books. Since our bookstore personnel were able to pre-pick the books for the students, it cut down on errors.
A Value-Driven Initiative
Because it manages all inventory – both physical and digital – the technology makes distribution and returns quick and easy. The Schreiner bookstore receives a comprehensive view of the course materials, from books assigned for a class by faculty, by course and more. This new system also provides financial and account reconciliation at the push of a button.
Professors are helped out by this technology as well and now have the academic freedom to research and adopt course materials from a catalog of more than 11 million unique titles. This tool helps our professors to think hard about book selection, and to realize they are contributing to a new approach to course materials management that will make Schreiner University more accessible to students.
As a result, students now have 100 percent of their course materials on day one at up to 50 percent of traditional textbook costs. Even better, 100 percent of students now come into the bookstore, which has not happened in a long time. This increased foot traffic has also translated into more merchandise sales at the bookstore, combating formerly declining sales. Schreiner set out to create a value-driven initiative that would put its resources to work in creative ways, and in finding such a workable solution, we feel that we are capturing a competitive advantage in the market.
Bill Muse is VP for Administration & Finance at Schreiner University. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org