The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

First Day program negotiates textbook prices with publishers

3 min read
Old textbooks in two stacks.

The First Day Program adds an automatic charge to a student’s account for materials, students can opt out of the program and be refunded.


Staff Writer

The First Day Inclusive Access program by Barnes & Noble College was implemented this semester to reduce the cost of textbooks and course materials for students. Before the semester begins, professors can choose to opt their classes in or out of this program. If a professor opts in, the program automatically bills their students’ accounts for the course-required textbooks at a reduced cost. Students can choose to opt out of the automatic charges before their specified deadline. 

According to the First Day FAQs provided by the University of Mary Washington Bookstore,  the costs of the books are reduced by negotiations with the publisher. Digitized versions of the materials are made available through Canvas to enrolled students by the first day of classes, but students can choose to purchase physical, loose-leaf copies instead. If a student drops or withdraws from the class, they will be refunded, according to UMW’s policies on refunds for tuition and fees

Professor of economics Robert Rycroft made use of this new program for all of his classes this semester. He volunteered to participate in the program after receiving an email from the campus bookstore informing him of the new model. 

“It’s a promising program and I hope we continue to use it going forward,” he said.

Rycroft likes that because of the program, all of his students had their textbooks by the first day of class, which has not been the case in previous semesters. 

An automatic message was sent to students enrolled in participating classes informing them of their involvement in the program and the benefits. However, some students were not aware of their enrollment in it and incurred unexpected charges to their accounts. Banner does not specify which courses are enrolled in the First Day program.

“I don’t think the plan is necessarily a bad one, but there was such little transparency and forewarning about it that I could understand why students, especially those with tight and regulated budgets, would be upset or annoyed,” said Otto Perl, a sophomore majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. 

Despite the option to opt out, some students still worry about the program.

“The idea that the autonomy of deciding where to spend my money is being taken away does not sit well with me,” said Bonnie Akkerman, a senior double majoring in history and English. “That’s like letting your server decide the tip amount and you must go along with whatever they demand. … I want the freedom to get my materials from the best priced vendors.”

For the past two years Akkerman has purchased most of her required texts from online sources that were able to offer her the best deal. 

Perl hopes that the program is more transparent in the future.

“I’m fortunate enough to come from a comfortable position where it was no worry for me, but I hope that the process is improved in the future so that others can receive a more accommodating and clear experience,” he said.