To reduce the financial burden to students that can be caused by the high prices of textbooks, the University of Southern Mississippi is partnering with Barnes & Noble College to launch a new program that is expected to lower costs and increase access to those materials.
The program, called Eagle Direct Texbooks, will be available to undergraduates beginning in the Fall 2021 semester. Participants can select all required course materials for their undergraduate classes for a flat fee - $20 per credit hour – regardless of how much each individual book would cost separately.
“I’m very excited about this opportunity for our students,” said Allyson Easterwood, vice president for Finance and Administration at Southern Miss. “I know the costs of textbooks has increased over the years, and I’m just really thrilled that The University of Southern Mississippi has taken this opportunity to participate in this program with Barnes and Noble.
“We’re the only university in the state of Mississippi that’s offering this program. We’re continuously looking for ways to help keep costs affordable to our students so that all students have access to a college education, so this is just another way that we’re able to do that for our students.”
All undergraduate students will be automatically enrolled into Eagle Direct Textbooks; once the student starts his or her courses, the bookstore will begin preparing the order. Starting 30 days before the first day of classes, students will receive an order verification link to their Southern Miss email to verify the order and select the delivery preference, whether that be in-store pickup or direct ship-to-home.
An email notification will be sent when the order is ready for pickup, or when it ships. Digital materials will be delivered for courses within Canvas.
Although undergraduates will be automatically entered, they will have an opportunity to opt out of the program if they wish.
“I am excited this innovative new model will lower costs and increase access to course materials for our undergraduate students,” university president Rodney D. Bennett said. “I know our faculty are also sensitive to the cost burden the newest academic materials may place on students, and I am so pleased the Eagle Direct Textbooks program will enhance academic freedom by enabling faculty to continue selecting rich course materials that best support student learning and engagement, without having to consider the potential impact of increased costs.”
Easterwood said the program will offer affordable options to university students, with three main aspects: access, affordability and convenience.
“It offers access because students will have access to their materials before classes start or the day that classes start,” she said. “This helps position students to have the best academic experience they can have if they are adequately prepared when classes start. It offers affordability because these prices are significantly discounted.
“We believe the costs will be reduced anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of what they’ve paid previously to textbooks. And it offers convenience to our students. It’s a very simplified and personalized delivery method. Students will have an option to select whether they want their course materials shipped to them, or their course materials will be packaged together in our store here on campus and they can come and pick those up at their convenience.”
Lucas Williams, who serves as Student Government Association president at Southern Miss, said the Eagle Direct Textbooks program is exciting for students, and he only wishes it could have been available sooner.
“I feel like it’s really necessary,” he said. “A lot of the students that have already gotten word about it are extremely excited about this opportunity.
“I think it’s also an ease to the parents as well. They’re sending their students off to college with that surety that they know ‘I’m going to pay this much for textbooks.’ It’s not going to create another burden.”
Williams is taking 15 hours next semester, so his required materials will cost $300 under the plan.
“I think this is going to help tremendously,” he said. “I know, for some of us, we spend way over that $300 amount for textbooks as it is, so just to know that my limit will be $300 and I’ll have all the resources I need for classes covered, we’re really grateful for that.”