FIU is launching a new institutional initiative to make required textbooks and other learning materials more affordable for students in undergraduate courses. The initiative, called the Panther Book Pack (PBP), offers the required materials at a flat rate of $20 per undergraduate credit hour. In partnership with Barnes & Noble, FIU will pilot this innovative textbook and course materials rental program beginning Fall 2021.
All undergraduate courses will include the price of required textbooks and course materials at the time of registration —and all materials under the Panther Book Pack will be fulfilled by FIU Barnes & Noble. Print textbooks may be picked up at one of the campus stores or shipped to an off-campus location. Codes for digital course materials will be posted on Canvas.
Students have the option to opt out of this program. They are encouraged to assess the combined cost of required materials across all their undergraduate courses each session and compare that to the Panther Book Pack flat rate to determine the most affordable option. Other considerations such as convenience and the ability to obtain materials prior to the start of class without having to pay right away may factor into a student’s decision as well. Students who opt out will receive a credit to their student account, thereby incurring no cost, but will be responsible to secure any required materials on their own.
Faculty who have reviewed the program say the initiative makes course materials, in general, more affordable and minimizes the hassle of getting them by the first day of class.
“The guarantee that required materials for a three-credit undergraduate course will cost $60 or less is a game-changer,” says Nathan Hiller, associate professor in the College of Business and executive director for the Center for Leadership. “I applaud our administration for its willingness to test this new paradigm in which the institution and the textbook vendor leverage the enormous purchasing power of our undergraduate student body and have negotiated a low flat rate for the benefit of our students.”
Nola Holness—assistant professor in undergraduate nursing at the Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences and a member of the university-wide Textbook Affordability Task Force—says the Panther Book Pack will impact equitable access.
“Nursing courses are rigorous and students must have their textbooks and digital exercises at the onset of class," she says. "A delay in obtaining the required materials due to lack of finances often quickly results in a student falling behind. This initiative will ensure the timely acquisition of required textbooks toward students’ success in the nursing program.”
David Dolata, professor of music at the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts, did a deep-dive on how the Panther Book Pack would benefit his students.
All music majors must take his music history sequence, which entails two 3-credit music history courses (MUH 3211–3212). Several years ago, Dolata revised the sequence in order to use a much less expensive but better and more readable textbook/music anthology and recording package. An added benefit was robust online ancillaries and access to an inexpensive and convenient eBook version of the textbook.
When considering the Panther Book Pack, Dolata did the math.
Each semester requires the textbook ($132 for hardcover). The first semester also requires one anthology ($61), and the second semester requires two ($122) for a total of $315 for 6 credits ($52 per credit). But the Panther Book Pack only costs $120 for the entire sequence, saving students $195 for 6 credits ($32 per credit). Even if the students opt for the eBook version of the textbook ($79), the total cost is $262 ($43 per credit), and the PBP still saves students $142 ($23 per credit).
Dolata concludes: "While it is useful to consider the relative costs of individual courses, since the $20 per credit PBP flat rate is applied to the total number of credits taken each session, students must evaluate the total cost of books for all the courses taken in a given semester. On average, undergraduate music majors take 15 credits per semester ($300 PBP flat rate). In degree areas such as the B.A. in Music and the B.M. in Music Education in which most of the classes require textbooks, the PBP would likely offer considerable savings.
"On the other hand, music performance majors can have semesters with mostly applied lessons and ensembles that require no textbooks and, for instance, only one 3-credit academic course. If that one course is my music history course, students are better off opting out of the PBP since the total first-semester cost is $193 (textbook and anthology), and the second semester is $122 for both anthologies (they already have the textbook), whereas the PBP is $300 per semester, again, based on the 15-credit average. Students can save a lot if they have several courses that require textbooks and other materials.
"In the end, the best advice we can give our students is to simply do the math.”
Iqbal Akhtar, associate professor of religious studies and international relations at the Green School of International & Public Affairs believes the Panther Book Pack initiative is a great help to students who are pursuing interdisciplinary studies at FIU. The program allows them to pursue their area of study without fearing the cost of books each term.
"While in some of my classes I adopt low- and no-cost materials, in order for students to gain a fundamental understanding of religious practices and believes, I require five texts in my Intro to Religion course," Akhtar says. "Since these are all required readings, under the Panther Book Pack program, my students not only will save approximately $50, they will also obtain all titles automatically from one source and don’t have to spend time searching for the fastest and cheapest delivery to them.”
“We know that this is not a one-size-fits-all program,” Provost Kenneth Furton says.
In some instances, the actual cost of required course materials will be lower than the flat rate. Thus it is critical that students determine upon enrollment what’s included in the Panther Book Pack.
“We will be very transparent about that and communicate this to students through all available channels so that they are active participants in their purchasing decisions," Furton says. "I expect that the program’s advantages as highlighted by our faculty here will considerably ease the timely access to their learning materials.”
Students can learn more about the initiative on the Panther Book Pack website, which includes an extensive FAQs section and phone numbers and email addresses for the Panther Book Pack support team.
Faculty and staff should visit http://go.fiu.edu/affordabilitypack for guidance on how the program works best for their students.