Digital, print textbooks more affordable with higher ed provider Rafter360

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Many college students struggle to pay for textbooks for their classes – often waiting weeks before purchasing them – but a startup has created a solution.

Rafter, Inc., a higher education content distributor, has created Rafter360, a program that guarantees students will have all the course materials they need – including textbooks formatted in print or digital – by the first day of class, at a discounted price.

“We want to make education more affordable, accessible and effective through the No. 2 academic expense – course materials,” CEO Sara Leoni said in an interview with EdScoop.

The company on Tuesday announced that several new colleges and universities have adopted Rafter360, which launched in 2014, at their campuses. They include Wesleyan College in Georgia and Maryville University in Missouri.

Rafter officials want to help solve an ongoing problem, that about 65 percent of students do not buy their required course materials due to the exorbitant prices, and 94 percent say they worry this will negatively effect their grades, according to a study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Rafter sets itself apart from competitors by promising to save students 50 percent off the retail price of their books, officials say. To date, the company has provided discounted prices on textbooks and course materials to nearly 3 million students, which totals more than $700 million in savings, according to officials.

The program is designed to serve entire universities or degree programs. Schools provide Rafter consultants with a list of all of the materials needed for each class. The company gives a quote that cuts the retail price in half, and then schools include the cost of the course materials with the students’ tuition. Every student is guaranteed to have all of their course materials by the first day of class.

Leoni says that now, the cost of textbooks and materials can be covered directly by financial aid, and it’s one less financial burden for students.

Rafter360 allows professors to continue using the same content they prefer.

“The faculty can adopt anything they’re used to adopting,” Leoni said. “We don’t put restrictions on their selection.”

Rafter360 officials also capture data that allow colleges to lower student cost by finding alternative, more affordable substitutes for some of the most high-priced materials. The company provides “impact scores” that measure the cost of a particular material compared to how often students actually use it to determine it’s actual value.

“The benefit of Rafter360 is that professors can look up on day one with the assurance that every student in front of them has the materials they need to succeed.”

Reach the reporter at darlene.aderoju@edscoop.com and follow her on Twitter @buuukky and @edscoop_news.

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