Last fall, Albion students were introduced to a new program called Brit Books. For students and faculty who have been confused about the Brit Books program, here is a guide to its ins and outs.
According to Albion College’s website, the program “provides rental access to (students’) required course materials.”
The website also says that students are automatically enrolled in Brit Books with an opportunity to opt-out and that the program is designed to lower costs for students overall.
Why Brit Books Was Implemented
Karla McCavit, director of STEM success and assistant director of the Cutler Center, is involved with the “student success perspective” of Brit Books.
McCavit said that the Cutler Center staff noticed students were not purchasing textbooks, generally for financial reasons. She added that she saw this happening most often in the math and science departments. This became a problem due to the required online components accessed through the course material.
“We were finding a lot of students coming to the Cutler Center partway through the semester and they were failing,” McCavit said. “If you’re three or four weeks into a math class and you don’t have the materials and haven’t done any homework, you’re not going to do well in that class.”
McCavit believes this is why the college sought out a new program, now known as Brit Books. She also said that the program is based on a larger model called “inclusive access.”
“Inclusive access is a model where materials are provided up front for students versus having to source their own materials,” McCavit said. “It was adopted to help students who maybe might not otherwise get their books – or not get them until much later in the semester – to get them early in the semester so they can have what they need to be successful.”
Heather Betz, associate provost and professor of kinesiology, works with McCavit to ensure that Brit Books runs smoothly for both students and faculty. She said that many parents of incoming students were excited about the program.
“They appreciated the convenience, that it just went on the bill and everything was going to be there when they went to the bookstore to pick up their materials,” Betz said.
Betz later added that the cost of the program is added to their student bill, so the student doesn’t have to rely on having funds on hand when they buy their books.
“Really, a program like this works to have equitable access to all students,” Betz said. “Which is a problem on campuses around the country.”
How Cost is Calculated
In the Frequently Asked Question section of Albion’s Brit Books website, the cost of Brit Books is listed at $76 per unit. Altogether, students taking four classes will be charged a total of $304 a semester for the program.
Student Accounting Manager, Nathan Isaacs, says that the digital content aspect of the program is his biggest concern with students who decide to opt-out.
“If a student opts out and they don’t have that ability to get the digital content and turn in their assignments, take tests, whatever the case may be,” Isaacs said adding that for online courseware, “the minimum charge is roughly about $120 compared to the $76.”
All students received an email on Aug. 21 which said the opt-out period had opened and would remain open until Sept. 11.
“Please do not contact Student Accounting to request a credit to your account before September 15,” the email said.
Isaacs said that message was sent to address confusion on Student Accounting’s end as they added or removed Brit Books charges from student accounts.
McCavit added that in previous semesters, the opt-in and opt-out dates were confusing for a lot of parents and students. She said that this semester, once the opt-out date has passed, those charges will be taken off each account.
“If you’ve opted out – don’t worry,” Betz said. “Wait until the eleventh and the business office will start to reverse those charges.”
Deciding if Opting In or Out is the Best Option for You
Toccara Gaddis, manager of Albion College’s bookstore, works with the bookstore staff to facilitate the Brit Books program. She said that with the program being so new, it is natural for there to be “kinks and things that need to work out,” yet overall she believes that “the program is great.”
Gaddis said that an issue she deals with frequently stems from the email that students initially receive regarding Brit Books. She said that it seems that some students do not read the whole thing because they assume that in receiving the email, they will receive their books.
“You have to go through and read the email and take the steps to actually place that order to get to us to fill the order and get you your books,” Gaddis said.
Gaddis said that when deciding to opt-out or stay opted-in, it is important for students to weigh their options depending on the courses they are enrolled in. She said she often sits down with students to assess their courses and add up the total cost of the course materials, then compare the cost to the $76 per unit.
“I think that the biggest misconception is that it is a one-size-fits-all program for all students, and it’s not,” Gaddis said. “It’s up to the student or student/parent to do the investigation to figure out whether or not it is most cost-effective for them.”
McCavit also discussed the importance of students weighing their options, saying that students should “look at their schedule on a semester-by-semester basis” to make sure that the financial and convenience factors make sense for them.
“I’ve seen students with their four classes, maybe two of them have courseware and two don’t have materials at all and they’re thinking: Should I just opt-out? Is it worth it?” McCavit said. “But, if you actually look at what it costs to buy the courseware it’s actually more to buy the two coursewares than just to stay opted in.”
Generally, McCavit and Betz said the benefits of the program vary on an individual basis and the decision to remain opted-in to the program will depend on what students are taking.
McCavit said that the opt-out period is typically more than a month long and that students are able to opt-out and back in again if they change their minds. The last day to opt-out of Brit Books for this semester is Sept. 11.
Who to Contact With Questions
McCavit said any students with questions “should go to the bookstore first because they have the most up-to-date information,” adding that “if they have further questions or want to talk to someone that’s not from the bookstore, they can come to me at the Cutler Center.”
Betz said both students and faculty could reach out to her with questions as well.
Go to the bookstore during business hours or call with questions. Students can reach McCavit and Betz by emailing email@example.com.
Bella Bakeman also contributed reporting to this story.