Cal Poly Pomona’s launch of the Instant Access Program faces criticism from students and concern from staff over its affordability, despite positive affirmations from university sources.
The Instant Access Program, also called the Equitable Access Program, allows students to have online access to all course-required materials for a flat fee based on their graduate status and is included in their tuition. The fee for undergraduates is $250. For graduate students, the cost is $150. No student is required to participate in the program and is allowed to opt-out given they communicate such a choice by a set opt-out date which typically coincides with the end of the Add/Drop Period, despite being automatically opted-in at the start of the semester.
The purpose of the program is to provide students with an opportunity to save money by utilizing the program for textbook use rather than purchasing their own. Despite this, professors voiced concern over the program’s technical details.
Since the program’s launch in fall 2023, there has been outward support from the campus with the University News Center reporting 76.5% of enrolled students opted to stay in the program as of January of this year. Students saved $112.80 of all required material in the past year, estimating a total savings of $2.2 million.
From professors’ perspectives, the concern is over what happens to students when their ability to choose the cheapest textbooks is taken away and it becomes one payment like the Instant Access program requires.
“The more common that becomes, I think the more pressure it might put and might make it easier for publishers to start jacking up prices,” said Peter Hanink, an assistant professor in the Sociology Department. “… If the cost is being paid by the university, then the university would have the incentive to lower the prices. If the cost is being paid by the students, then those prices might just get passed on to the students.”
Professors aren’t the only ones voicing apprehension over the validity of the program.
Based on an article by Insider Higher Ed, The Biden-Harris administration pushing to modifying Instant Access to require students to opt-in rather than having to opt-out. However, since the program requires many participants, having the opt-in option may result in students not participating and the loss of the program.
Freshman starting in fall 2023 had the opportunity to begin their college experience with the program available.
Axel Sernas, a business student, shared how Instant Access made his semester easier by allowing him to find all his course materials in one place.
Isabel Recinos, a child development student, echoed how it was better she didn’t have to go scavenging for textbooks or buy each one individually.
Stephanie Sanchez, a graduate student in education, said the program has been vital to her current educational career.
“As a graduate student, Instant Access covers all of my material cost,” Sanchez said. ”It was definitely worth it. I do recommend it for other graduate students. Although I would recommend to first search up all required documents beforehand to obtain a better outlook if it would benefit them.”
With some of the more intense majors such as engineering or biology, the Instant Access Program allows for the best price for all their textbooks due to the overwhelming number of required for their courses. On the opposite side of the spectrum, students opt-out because their books can be found for cheaper prices, or it doesn’t accumulate to the set amount require.
Jack Gilden, a liberal arts student, communicated his thoughts on possibly altering the program to be more individual to each student.
“I believe Instant Access is a great tool, but it should be more affordable, and you should be able to have different prices based on how many materials you are actually utilizing,” Gilden said.