Beginning next semester, a new $285 charge is expected to appear on University of Connecticut students’ fee bills. The cost corresponds to a new program called Husky Book Bundle, which provides enrolled students with the textbooks and supplemental materials required for their classes.
Husky Book Bundle is an opt-out program, which means the $285 cost will appear on the Spring 2023 fee bill and students will automatically be enrolled unless they opt-out. Students can opt-out of the program at any point before the tenth day of classes and doing so will remove the charge from their fee bill. Students who choose to opt-out will need to purchase their class textbooks and materials on their own.
According to Vice Provost Michael Bradford, the University developed the program to ensure that the majority of students will have their required course materials by the first day of classes.
“We were finding really distressing percentages of students not starting the first day of class with their materials,” Bradford said in an interview, “If we want to focus on academic success, we need to get the materials in students’ hands on the first day.”
Bradford said the program will also assist with textbook costs for students, which is significant because students often spend more than $285 on required class materials.
“We want to help bring down the cost in any way we can for students,” Bradford added. “For those students who can find their books and supplemental material for less than [the $285 fee], they should opt-out and do that. For underrepresented minorities, for first-gen students…I do think this is going to be a widely used program and will be beneficial.”
“We want to help bring down the cost in any way we can for students. For those students who can find their books and supplemental material for less than [the $285 fee], they should opt-out and do that. For underrepresented minorities, for first-gen students…I do think this is going to be a widely used program and will be beneficial.”Michael Bradford, Vice Provost
USG Academic Affairs Director Abbey Engler said she is concerned that a large population of students are neither aware of the program, nor aware that they will automatically be charged for it in their fee bills.
“…It is very concerning that nobody knows about this,” Engler said in an email. “It’s my job [as USG Academic Affairs Director] to know and I only found out [last week,] and it’s not for a lack of attention. This is not being publicized and it really should be.”
Engler said she is especially worried that freshmen who are new to the University will end up paying more than needed for their textbooks.
“So if students, especially freshmen, don’t know that there is the option to buy their books elsewhere or find them online for free, they will be grossly overpaying for their textbooks,” Engler continued.
Zach Claybuagh, who is a Student Success Librarian at Homer Babbidge Library advocating to provide students with free and low-cost instructional materials, also worries that many students will stay enrolled in the program and therefore end up paying more than they need to.
“So if students, especially freshmen, don’t know that there is the option to buy their books elsewhere or find them online for free, they will be grossly overpaying for their textbooks.”Abbey Engler, USG Academic Affairs Director
“You may not look at the actual pricing of the books you’re purchasing, and students may inadvertently overpay for the materials that they’re getting,” Claybaugh said in an interview.
According to Bradford, the Office of the Provost has communicated with USG’s student groups in the past regarding the development of the Husky Book Bundle program. He said the University is trying its best to ensure that students are aware of the program.
“We’ve pushed this out over email, and we continue to do so,” Bradford added. “We’re doing our best to make sure that everybody knows this [program] is happening.”
If students have financial aid from the university, it will be applied to the program cost as well. For students who neither opt-out of the program nor pick up their class materials by the tenth day of the semester, the program cost will be removed from their fee bill.
“Our greatest fear was that students would get stuck with money that they couldn’t pay,” said Bradford. “If students…never pick up their bundle [before] the tenth day count, that money comes off the fee bill. It might take a couple of weeks…but that money comes off the fee bill.”
Engler also raised the concern that students who stay enrolled in the program will not get to choose the format of their textbooks, which could potentially cause issues for those who require accommodations.
For each course, the professor teaching that course will have to choose either a digital or print format for their required textbook(s). Students in the program will be given a textbook of whichever format the professor had picked.
“Our greatest fear was that students would get stuck with money that they couldn’t pay. If students…never pick up their bundle [before] the tenth day count, that money comes off the fee bill. It might take a couple of weeks…but that money comes off the fee bill.”Abbey Engler, USG Academic Affairs Director
“This adds an additional barrier for CSD students,” Engler said of the pre-chosen textbook formats. “Additionally, it’s unknown whether or not digital formats will be compatible with text-to-speech software or if they have the proper accessibility tools.”
The Husky Book Bundle program requires that students rent textbooks and return them at the end of the semester. According to its website, “students will receive email reminders” to return course materials to the UConn Bookstore before the deadline.
For students who are concerned about the program charge automatically appearing on their fee bill, Bradford advises looking through the bill carefully and coming to a decision on whether or not the program would benefit them.
“Students should not be scared of the fact that money will land on a fee bill, because there are a lot of ways for that money to not be on that fee bill,” he said. “I want students to take a good look at what their costs are going to be, and come to a decision as to whether or not that $285 flat fee is…beneficial for them.”