Affordable Educational Materials

Our Story

President Hunter Barclay and Vice President Hannah Petracca have been working on a multifaceted initiative to lower the cost of educational materials for students. They provided Marshall’s faculty with a menu of affordable options. Options on the menu include free open educational materials, low-cost textbook publishers, price sharing platforms, and strategies to keep educational materials below $100.

Barclay and Petracca have presented their menu to President Gilbert, Provost Taylor, the Deans Council, the Faculty Senate, the College of Business faculty, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, the West Virginia Advisory Council of Students, and the West Virginia Advisory Council of Faculty.

Barclay and Petracca are working with the Registrar’s Office and bookstore to create an attribute for the course schedule that will indicate course sections that use designated affordable options. This attribute – designated AE (Affordable Education) – will enable students to see which courses offer affordable options whenever they register for classes. The new icon will take effect whenever students register for courses in the spring semester. This new icon will be in addition to the current icon that shows classes that do not require textbooks.

Affordable Options Eligible for the AE Attribute

Cengage Unlimited

For the price of $119.99, students can receive access to Cengage’s online library of 20,000+ textbooks, access codes, and learning platforms. If a student wants a physical copy of a book, the cost is only $7.99 per book.


OpenStax offers free, downloadable textbooks for many introductory courses. Rice University publishes online textbooks, which are peer-reviewed and regularly updated. From economics to chemistry, these books are great for introductory courses.

Vital Source

Providing some of the lowest rental prices for commonly used textbooks, Vital Source provides online rentals that can last for 120 days, 180 days, one year, and a lifetime. Vital Source includes access to over 1 million titles.

FlatWorld Knowledge

Offering materials that cover most introductory classes, FlatWorld Knowledge provides online textbook rentals for $30 to $60. Professors can edit and rearrange the textbook content to satisfy their classes’ needs. Access codes are also available at discounted rates.

Open Textbook Library

The Open Textbook Library offers free access to thousands of titles. Multiple higher education institutions use these textbooks, or the textbooks are affiliated with scholarly societies or professional organizations.

OER Commons

A portal with access to many third parties that offer affordable and free educational materials, OER Commons is an excellent resource for online textbooks and multimedia materials across all disciplines.

Lumen Learning

Created by Marshall alum David Wiley, Lumen Learning offers free access to educational texts for 50 of the most common courses. For the cost of $10 per student, professors can tailor the textbook to their syllabus. For the cost of $25 per student, professors can provide online homework for some quantitative subjects.

Teaching Commons

With thousands of titles and course materials available at no charge, Teaching Commons provides high-quality options that leading universities have developed and published for public usage.

Price Cap

Considering that students must purchase educational materials for multiple classes, develop a game plan to have the cost of your educational materials not exceed $100 per course. The elimination of access codes, bundled packages, newer editions, and infrequently used books make a price cap very pragmatic.