UC-Davis is no stranger to textbook experiments. In 2014 it pioneered the “inclusive access” model by getting several major publishers to offer digital versions of their textbooks to all students at deeply discounted prices. That model has now spread to hundreds of campuses, with publishers promoting their own versions.
But inclusive access is more of a course-by-course solution. “Equitable access” would extend the concept campuswide, so that all students would pay a book fee to the university — the current goal is to make it about $199 a term — and know that they were getting all the course materials assigned for their classes because the university was cutting deals with publishers to make it happen.
If that sounds a little like the way health insurance works, it’s no accident. Jason Lorgan, the UC-Davis official who is the architect of the idea, says both markets suffer from the same “principal-agent problem.” That’s when the person assigning a book (or prescribing a medicine) isn’t the one paying for it. Lorgan also says both markets could benefit by having an intermediary (like an insurer or the campus store) step in to negotiate for better prices.
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