Pioneering California University Expands Ambitious Affordability Initiative with Digital Textbooks

National University’s digital textbook marketplace, open resources mark latest in a series of innovations to increase access and affordability for adult learners

LA JOLLA, CALIF. (MARCH 11, 2021) — National University, a nonprofit university celebrating its rich 50-year history of serving working adult learners, educators and Veterans, today announced a major expansion of its textbook affordability initiative that will provide students with competitive pricing, more seamless access and additional purchasing choices for course materials.

To reduce the cost of attendance and increase affordability, National University has partnered with Barnes & Noble College to guarantee lower costs on new and used textbooks, digital materials, as well as offer a marketplace that may provide even more cost-saving options. Students now also receive free two-day shipping on all domestic orders and access to a Guaranteed Buyback Program for hard-copy texts. Currently, roughly one third of students opt into the digital textbook program, which is now available for about 85 percent of the university’s courses.

“Textbook price inflation has created a major barrier to degree completion for the students who ultimately shoulder the costs, and that is especially true for the diverse population of working adults, Veterans, and Pell-eligible and middle-income students that we serve,” said Dr. David Andrews, president of National University. “During this period of enormous economic hardship for so many students and their families, we simply owe it to them to use every innovation and process at our disposal to reduce costs. This work is reflective of our commitment to closing gaps in access and affordability.”

Research has found that the college textbooks are among the most significant drivers of rising college costs, with the average student spending more than $1,240 according to research from the College Board. More than tripling U.S. inflation, increases in textbook prices also continue to outstrip most other consumer goods except for health care, rising more than 1,000% since 1977.

As of September 2020, 48 National University courses used exclusively zero-cost resources instead of commercial textbooks. By comparing average annual enrollment and the average cost of commercial textbooks, these 48 courses alone are saving students more than $1 million each year in textbook costs. The university’s internal analysis found that students using open and zero-cost textbook solutions had the same or better outcomes compared to peers using traditional course materials.

As part of the university’s commitment to serving military-connected learners, National also offers digital textbooks at no cost to active-duty military students and to other students at a discounted price.

The step is the latest among several efforts by National University to improve access and affordability by reducing the cost of course materials. In 2018, National University launched its Day One Access to Resources and Text (DART) program to give students immediate access to embedded electronic textbooks for select courses. Since then, the university has promoted the use of free or low-cost, open-educational resources (OER) to provide an alternative to commercially-sold textbooks and to replace them completely for some courses.

The university’s textbook savings initiatives complement its broader commitment to improving access and affordability and to removing barriers to academic and career success for students. Last year, amid the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, National University unveiled a plan to reduce the cost of attendance by cutting tuition by up to 25 percent for full-time students and by adding scholarships that make enrollment nearly free for Pell Grant-eligible students.

About the National University System

National University, a Veteran-founded nonprofit, has been dedicated to meeting the needs of hard-working adults by providing accessible, affordable, achievable higher education opportunities since 1971. As San Diego’s largest private nonprofit university, NU offers over 75 online and on-site programs and flexible four-week courses designed to help students reach their goals while balancing busy lives. Since its founding, the NU community has grown to over 25,000 students and 180,000 alumni around the globe, many of whom serve in helping industries such as business, education, health care, cybersecurity, and law and criminal justice. Learn more at

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