Education and technology company Cengage is hopping on the subscription bandwagon with Cengage Unlimited, providing college students with unlimited, all-you-can-learn, on demand access to educational materials. Launching in August 2018, the digital subscription gives students access to a library of more than 20,000 eBooks and 2,300 digital learning products across 70 disciplines and more than 675 courses, plus online homework and study tools, for $119.99 per semester.
‘High costs are limiting too many students from being able to access and succeed in their learning,’ said CEO Michael Hansen in a press release. ‘Students are either spending hundreds of dollars a year on materials, or else put off buying them altogether because they can’t afford them. And, for many students who do find a way, it is because they are taking on student loan debt that will impact them for years.’
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With a Cengage Unlimited subscription, students can access materials anytime, anywhere without the high price cost of textbooks. If a student needs a hard copy of a textbook offered by Cengage, they can rent it for a semester by paying a shipping fee of $7.99. When a student’s subscription expires, they can keep up to six eBooks in their digital lockers and access them for up to a year.
‘With Cengage Unlimited, students finally have an alternative to the traditional and costly approach of paying for each course’s materials individually. We are taking unprecedented action to break down cost barriers and end the cycle of students having to choose between course materials they can afford and the results they want,’ Hansen said.
According to the December 5 announcement, after subscribing, students will access the content library through a digital dashboard which includes the MindTap and WebAssign learning platforms. Cengage will make subscriptions available to students by working with its partners in bookstores on and off campus and through online retailers.
‘Knowing that cost is among the highest hurdles facing students, we embarked on a very deliberate path to find a solution. A subscription to Cengage Unlimited gives students access to all of our best-in-class authors and learning products at significantly lower cost than they might pay otherwise,’ said Fernando Bleichmar, EVP and Chief Product Officer.
Cengage Unlimited is part of the company’s goal to become 90 percent digital by 2019.
Cengage is marking its new textbook subscription as a first-of-its-kind service, but they aren’t truly the first. In September, we reported on Pearson who was testing the idea of digital textbook subscriptions, starting with an economics textbook, priced at $90 per semester. The company offered this experiment as part of its commitment to make college textbooks more accessible and affordable for students. Pearson was targeting a few textbooks to start and focusing on making those textbooks more interactive than traditional textbooks while Cengage is doing a broader-based subscription.
The two models are not the same, so we aren’t comparing apples to apples here, but the overall concept is the same – providing affordable, accessible textbooks digitally via subscription. Because the subscription economy is so strong and college expenses continue to escalate, we anticipate this trend in education to continue. Pearson and Cengage are among the first to pioneer the idea, but other publishers are sure to follow, particularly those who want to ensure their long-term sustainability.