A Veteran Employee
Jai Kumar has worked in the Campus Bookstore at Cañada College in Silicon Valley, California, for more than 26 years.
The school is one of three in the San Mateo County Community College District.
“I suppose I can be considered a veteran in my field,” he says.
Over his many years, Jai says he’s seen the cost of going to college skyrocket.
“The price of higher education has gotten so high in general,” he says, “and in the Bay Area, everything is that much more expensive.”
“I understand the financial struggles so many of our students have. I’ve seen their tears,” he says.
It was this understanding, Jai says, that drove his recent desire to explore alternatives to traditional textbooks at San Mateo.
“My goal has always been to find new and better ways to deliver academic content to our students in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.”
The old way, Jai says, was renting textbooks.
Today, it’s delivering course material to students digitally, through a revolutionary program called “Inclusive Access.”
Small But Mighty
The change didn’t happen overnight, Jai says.
He began working on his plan for bringing digital delivery of course material to San Mateo in early 2016.
He started by researching other schools that had implemented similar models. The majority were very large institutions.
“I knew then that making this delivery model work for a small, community college like ours would be a challenge,” he says.
“But I also felt it would be well worth it for our students and faculty if we could.”
Jai reached out to several publishers who sold their traditional textbooks at the San Mateo bookstore.
“In my message, I said, ‘I know we’re small, and there is no precedent for a school like ours, but please give us a chance.’”
“In my message, I said, ‘I know we’re small, and there is no precedent
for a school like ours, but please give us a chance.’”
“Pearson was one of the first companies to respond,” Jai says.
The Pilot Program
Jai spent several months working with Pearson on the Inclusive Access pilot program for San Mateo.
What they landed on is called an “opt-out model.”
When a student registers for a course that uses Inclusive Access, Jai says, he or she will get an email from the school a week or two before class begins.
“It explains that by default, they will receive all their materials digitally, at a cheaper price than a traditional textbook would cost.”
By default, students receive all their materials digitally,
at a cheaper price than a traditional textbook would cost.”
Students have approximately two weeks to opt out of the program, if desired.
“Very few take that option,” Jai says. “Less than five percent.”
[For students who prefer printed content but don’t want to pay full price for a textbook, Jai says, there is the Inclusive Access upgrade option. Students who select the upgrade receive a simplified binder, produced by the publisher, which includes all of the textbook content.]
The Inclusive Access pilot program launched at San Mateo in Fall of 2016.
“We had 10 courses that semester,” Jai says. “We were very happy with that.”
This spring, students in 47 courses received their course material digitally through the program.
“I am very proud of this program,” Jai says.
“It has exploded the traditional textbook model, and brought huge savings to our students.”
From Pilot to Paving the Way
Jai says the news of his successful Inclusive Access program has spread beyond just the San Mateo campus.
“My phone rings often,” he says. “Bookstore managers from near and far reach out asking for advice on how to implement similar programs on their campuses.”
In the last year, Jai has helped launch Inclusive Access at the other two colleges in the San Mateo Community College district.
He says he’s grateful that the San Mateo faculty and administration were supportive of the effort.
“It’s rewarding to work in an environment where my ideas for innovation are wholeheartedly encouraged and supported.”
“It’s a big reason I’ve stayed at San Mateo,” Jai says.
“For as long as I am here, I’ll never stop looking for ways to help students get the best—and most affordable—education they can.”