Publisher Perspectives

12 Evolve your Approach to Access and Affordability: Cengage Perspective

Kelly Manuelidis, Senior Midwest Account Manager, Cengage Learning

Michael Hansen, CEO, Cengage

Part 1: The Inclusive Access Business Model

There is an educational solution that saves money, ensures greater preparedness, streamlines processes, and delivers results. A model that empowers faculty to teach with an eye toward students’ financial limits and equips learners with the resources they need to get all they can out of their courses.

Inclusive Access is a business model that integrates the cost of course materials, while delivering content directly and seamlessly to a Learning Management System (LMS) so students are ready from day one.

In 2012 Cengage and Indiana University (IU) set a goal to make learning materials more accessible and affordable for students while enhancing instructor access to high-quality materials of choice. Currently, around 15–20% of courses have adopted the Inclusive Access model, bringing overall usage from 9 classes in 2011 to 1,176 classes in 2016 — with more courses adopting every semester. The Inclusive Access partnership between IU and Cengage is working wonders, and it saved students more than $1.3M in 2016-2017 alone.

Note that inclusive access is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Instead, Cengage considers an institution’s appetite for digital adoption—then builds out a solution that’s uniquely suited for them.

Identifying your reasons for implementing an Inclusive Access partnership is step one.

What are the benefits?

  • Students succeed with accessible and affordable materials on day one.
  • Instructors are more effective with prepared students and integrated digital resources.
  • Institutions thrive with improved student performance, retention, and graduation rates.
  • College Stores get high sell-through, satisfied customers, and streamlined processes.

You should also consider:

  • State regulations around course fees
  • How you’ll get buy-in from your institution’s leadership
  • Who on your campus can oversee the implementation and faculty training
  • Communication strategy for rolling out the model to students and instructors
  • Variety of materials requiring access
  • Technology capabilities at your institution
  • Process for overcoming obstacles
  • Methods for evaluating the results post-implementation


Students should have access to high-value learning experiences, regardless of their financial situation. By lowering the total cost of materials and incorporating the costs into tuition, Inclusive Access dismantles this obstacle for students, decreasing their upfront financial burden.

In the Inclusive Access formula, affordability informs access and access informs achievement. The streamlined delivery model enables students to have all course materials in hand from day one, so students don’t just show up to class—they show up ready.


Part 2: Affordability is Only Half of What We Need

A leadership perspective from Cengage CEO Michael Hansen


Affordability matters. We must find a way to lower the cost of course materials to remove any barriers from students getting a great educational experience.

But affordable products are not enough. If we overlook whether educational materials—including content, digital platforms and personalized learning technology—can help students achieve their goal, we’re missing the point.

Affordability plus results equals value, and that needs to be our focus as an industry.

Students and instructors should never be forced to choose between the results they want and the price they can afford. Providing good value to students means delivering materials that help students achieve their goals while staying within their budget.

At Cengage, this sense of value shapes our approach to designing, developing and distributing our products. Through technology, we’re producing materials that are more effective and efficient, allowing us to lower costs while boosting outcomes. Most importantly, we know that the right learning tools can improve course completion. Taking a course only one time is definitely the best way to keep college affordable!

Shifting to digital has also given us the ability to explore new business models, like Inclusive Access, that allow us to work directly with institutions to make sure all students have affordable access to high-quality materials. And by providing more purchase and rental options, we’re meeting students where they are and giving them the largest number of choices.

If we are to instill confidence in the value of higher education for generations to come, we must find a way to lower costs while improving results. The future of our students depends on it.


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