By Julie Lineback
It pays to Go West – and not just after your degree is in hand and you’ve launched your career.
The University of West Georgia continues to close the equity and accessibility divide by providing free and low-cost learning resources and tools to bolster student success while eliminating barriers to higher education.
A recent study conducted over a span of 11 years found that UWG saved students more than $40 million by intentionally offering more online tools and faculty making conscientious choices to select textbooks and materials with cost sensitivity in mind.
“As a first-choice university that is consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as an effective catalyst for social mobility, affordability and access to a quality college education are UWG’s top priorities,” said Dr. Brendan Kelly, UWG president. “These programs help address families’ financial barriers and provide resources to assure a successful experience through – and beyond – graduation.”
In the decade studied, the adoption of low- to no-cost courses grew from 19% to 55%, and during that same period, cost of learning resources to students declined from an average of $111 to $41 per semester. Annual savings have grown from $1.26 million to $2.95 million, and over the period of four years – average time needed to earn a bachelor’s degree – UWG students save an average of $5,000 in textbooks.
One of the large factors of college affordability is textbook costs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, textbook prices have risen more than 1,000% since 1977.
To help combat the figure, UWG initiated Day One Access (D1A), a program that ensures students have their required course materials on the first day of class at a highly competitive rate, in Summer 2020. D1A provides required digital course materials when instructors use interactive courseware platforms or digital books instead of printed textbooks, which allows for reduced student costs in comparison to traditional printed textbooks.
“Digital learning technology allows students to access course materials easier and earlier – they don’t have to wait to get to campus to buy the book or wait on a book to arrive via mail,” said Dr. Jon Preston, UWG’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Additionally, they can access the learning materials from anywhere and at any time. Improved access helps enable more students to be more successful.”
An opt-in program, D1A promises the lowest price possible for materials, which can be up to 80% reduced cost. It is estimated that it has positively impacted more than 12,000 students and saved them $1.4 million overall.
In the future, UWG will continue to look for ways to make learning more affordable, which includes potentially increasing no- and low-cost materials. Faculty members also plan to apply for more affordable materials grants through Affordable Learning Georgia, sponsored by the University System of Georgia, in which they develop materials for courses that are then made available at no cost to students throughout the state.
Faculty will also pursue workforce development grants in academic programs with large workforce needs that will provide scholarships to students studying in high-demand areas.
These are the latest developments in UWG’s quest in removing barriers to academic success. Last spring, it was announced that bordering states – Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida – would join Alabama in paying in-state tuition throughout at least Spring 2025.
“Affordability and access to materials is vital to student success,” Preston concluded. “In the past, if something was unaffordable, then a student might miss important content and not be as successful in the course. Therefore, learning can be enhanced as a result of affordable, accessible content.”