Academic Solutions · Article

Institutions Boosting Academic and Financial Support for Students

Students writing their exams
July 20, 2021

Over the last year, students faced unprecedented barriers. Colleges and universities continue to seek innovative solutions that provide students with essential academic support and financial relief in a time of enduring need.

One way that institutions are answering this urgent call: reimagining their course material delivery approach. Ivy Tech Community College (Ivy Tech), North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T) and Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) are among the many institutions nationwide moving to an equitable access model. Through this model, they can deliver vital, short-term support to help students through this difficult time – as well as long-term value.

Meeting the Moment

Many U.S. colleges and universities, including Ivy Tech and N.C. A&T, received grants though the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). In addition to other disbursements of emergency aid to students, these institutions strategically invested some of their CARES Act funding to address a shared challenge across the U.S.: students who are unprepared for class.

Even pre-pandemic, over half of students at institutions nationwide did not have their course materials by the first day of class during the spring 2020 term. Conditions created by COVID-19 only made it more difficult for students to get their materials amid shutdowns, shipping delays and other challenges. Now, institutions are taking steps to make the process easier and lower costs for students.

Ivy Tech, N.C. A&T and WSSU partnered with Barnes & Noble College to implement First Day® Complete, an equitable access program that ensures all students have their course materials on Day 1. It supports greater access, convenience, and affordability for students as they start the semester equipped with what they need to be successful.

“Research shows that 65% of college students forego buying a textbook with the biggest reason that they cannot afford them. Often financial aid and scholarships do not cover course materials. Our goal is to ensure every student has their textbooks the first day of class”

– Sue Ellspermann, President, Ivy Tech Community College

Delivering Equitable Access

In the First Day Complete program, students receive required course materials – in both digital and/or physical formats – before the first day of class. Course material costs are bundled as part of tuition or as a course charge, saving students an average of 35-50%, even as they enjoy personalized, concierge service.

In response to the challenging conditions created by COVID, Ivy Tech, N.C. A&T and WSSU are providing an even more comprehensive layer of support through First Day Complete. Each institution will make textbooks free for all undergraduate students in one or more of the upcoming academic terms.

N.C. A&T and WSSU also are among the first public HBCUs to adopt the equitable access program, which is quickly becoming the status quo nationwide for institutions championing student preparation and success.

“This program will help alleviate financial pressures often associated with pursuing higher education for many students, especially first-generation students and those with limited financial resources. Our undergraduates will begin the academic year with an added layer of confidence and be able to focus on their studies without the worry of textbook costs.”

-Beryl McEwen, Ph.D., Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, N.C. A&T
VIDEO: N.C. A&T Partnership Foots Bill for undergrad Students’ Textbooks

Supporting All Institutional Goals

In addition to the benefits students receive, First Day Complete fully supports academic freedom and faculty choice. Faculty members can choose the best materials for their courses, regardless of publisher or format, without worrying about the costs for students. And, they can begin teaching on the first day, knowing that all students have access to the same materials.

For institutions, taking an equitable access approach ensures that all students have a level playing field at the start of the term, free of barriers like delays in financial aid disbursement. It’s a vital form of academic and financial support. First Day Complete also helps to recover market share from online vendors, saving students time and the potential hassle of getting incorrect or outdated materials. Instead, the program’s volume creates significant convenience and cost savings for students while recapturing vital revenue for the institution.

Hear what students, faculty, and administrators are saying about the value of First Day Complete.

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