What is Equitable Access

By Michael Moore | September 28, 2022
What is Equitable Access

What is Equitable Access

Equitable Access is the evolution of Inclusive Access. Equitable Access (EA) differs from Inclusive Access (IA) in that it is a campus-wide model.  In Equitable Access, every student in every section of every course across the institution has their required course materials provided. This is the last blog in the series to address what I believe are the main drivers of the course materials revolution. There are other models out there like campus-wide text/etext rental and “no or low cost” (NOLO) programs. However, I do not consider them in my top 3 list of paradigm shifting models. This is because the student is still involved in the course materials acquisitions process. This is not to say they are not valuable to addressing affordability and access. However, IA, EA, and OER generally remove students from the acquisitions process. This is the most critical element of the course materials revolution.

Content and Content Delivery

Equitable Access course materials model content is delivered through the Learning Management System (LMS).  One of the differences between Inclusive and Equitable Access is the type of content available in the models. Inclusive Access models exclusively rely on traditional textbook publisher content. EA models, by design, can use any content, including Open Educational Resources. EA models serve the entire campus, so the flexibility to support any type of content is important.


In my What is Inclusive Access blog, I discussed how the cost savings for course materials in Inclusive Access programs can be anywhere from 30% to 80% off the cost of purchasing a new physical textbook. EA model costs are figured by credit hour or a flat fee. Through research and personal conversations, I have seen credit hour fee models around $20-$25 per credit hour. So, a student taking 15 credits could expect to pay around $300-$375 for all their course materials. Flat fee models that I have observed range from $169-$225 per term. In flat fee models, course load does not factor into the cost they may pay for their course materials.


Students who do not want to participate in an EA program can opt-out of the program. Opting out of the program means that they must source all their course materials on their own. Students essentially revert back to the archaic course materials acquisitions model these programs are trying to replace. However, my research suggests that, especially at two-year institutions, students who opt-out of EA programs are nearly 16% less likely to complete a course than students who stayed in the program. More interestingly, a survey of students who opted out of the Equitable Access program at the University of California – Davis found that 58.4% of students who opted out in Fall 2020 and 60.6% of students who opted out in the Spring 2021 did not acquire all their course materials elsewhere. So, not only does the research suggest participants are more likely to complete a course compared to non-participants, there is also evidence to suggest if a student opts out, they may not acquire all their course materials on their own.

UC Davis

The University of California – Davis, under the guidance of Jason Lorgan, Executive Director –  Student Affairs, launched higher education’s most revolutionary Equitable Access program in 2020. As of Fall 2022, students at UC Davis receive all their required course materials for $169 per term. What makes this program so impressive is that it incorporates campus stakeholders from the Library and Information Technology departments. These partnerships ensure students are paying the lowest possible prices for their course materials. The UC Davis program doesn’t just talk about equity in course materials, they walk it. The UC Davis Equitable Access program has covered the course materials fee for 7,000 of their lowest income students since the program launched.  UC Davis’s Equitable Access program received a gold medal in the IMS Global Learning Consortium 2021 Learning Impact Awards. I had the chance to chat with Jason about the UC Davis Equitable Access program and you can check it out here.

Wrap Up

To recap the question of What is Equitable Access, the answer is, it is a campus-wide course materials acquisitions model that provides every student in every class across the entire campus with their required course materials. As I have said before, IA and EA programs are designed to remove the student from the acquisitions model and ensure they have their course materials on or before the first day of class. Equitable Access takes Inclusive Access to the next level to ensure that every student on campus has access to their course materials. If you would like to learn more about Equitable Access course materials programs, please contact me. As always, thanks for checking in and I’ll see you next time.