Equitable Access / Flat-Fee Course Materials Programs

What is Equitable Access?


Equitable access (EA) is a flat fee course materials program referring to the practice of ensuring that all students have the necessary educational resources regardless of their financial situation, background, or personal circumstances.  This concept aims to remove barriers that may prevent students from obtaining the materials they need to succeed academically.  Dozens of colleges and universities across the country have implemented these programs to provide the lowest cost possible to students with many advantages for equity and academic success.

In the EA programs, the campus makes a choice to have this available to all students with the option to opt out.   Faculty maintain their choice of materials.   Also known as flat-fee programs, EAs may be a flat fee for the term or may be customized to each student’s number of units in which they are enrolled.  If materials are available digitally, that format is the priority.  All of a student’s required materials, whether at a cost or open (free), are assembled and accessible to the student in one stop via the learning management system.

Typically the program can be adopted for the entire campus population; by a single college, discipline, or cohort; or by other arrangements. As Executive Order 1102 restricts course materials fees (Type III per the order) with class-by-class and term-duration limitations, programs which are underway on CSU campuses have either been institutionally funded or are an ‘opt-out’ choice model.

The campus bookstores negotiate with the providers/publishers for the lowest possible prices. Digital delivery is usually the best solution and the most popular format. Sometimes, hard-copy print, used books, reprinted materials, and short-term rentals are provided instead. Fees are collected from students with registration payments.


E.A. advantages for students:

  • Significant savings over traditionally purchased materials
  • Streamlined, one-stop access to all materials (via LMS in all-digital programs)
  • Equity: all enrolled students receive materials before the first day of class

E.A. advantages for faculty:

  • Academic freedom to select materials best suited for their teaching
  • More straightforward adoption process requiring less time
  • Assurance students are equally able to be prepared with the correct materials
  • Instruction can begin on the first day of class

E.A. advantages for administrators:

  • Enhances the student experience and improves affordability
  • Seamless support for the classroom and online instruction
  • Improves student recruitment and retention
  • Revenues stay on campus while delivering student savings


California innovator, U.C. Davis is in their multi-year implementation of Equitable Access This link will take you to an external website in a new tab.. The cost to each student per term has been negotiated to $169 due to the increase in volume participation. A single price-point model for all students is based on other required fees for programs such as health insurance, tuition, associated student organizations, parking, etc. that do not change based on majors. The goal is to equalize the cost of materials to the benefit of all students.

CSU-funded pilots of E.A. have been facilitated for all freshmen at CSU Northridge and CSU East Bay. These were funded by one-time HERFF, CARE, or other student success support monies. The students were not charged for their materials. Results of a survey at CSUN show 94% of students felt E.A. improved their college experience and 80% responded that E.A. improves their grades.

E.A. implementations at other CSUs is taking place, more specifically, at San Diego State Aztec Shops. They are coordinating with many campus entities and have made extensive efforts including contracting an actuary firm to use historical adoption information, industry trends, and other factors to create a unit-based student-paid flat-fee program that complies with executive direction and education code parameters. Sonoma, Long Beach, and Pomona have implemented a flat-fee model successfully, as well.