Rutgers has new financial aid system for textbooks

<p>Textbooks are one of the types of digital course materials offered by First Day, a pilot program partnering with Barnes &amp; Noble.</p>

Textbooks are one of the types of digital course materials offered by First Day, a pilot program partnering with Barnes & Noble.

The price tag for many required textbooks can put a large strain on the wallets of many students, even those with financial aid from Rutgers University. Now, Rutgers University—New Brunswick is implementing a pilot program called First Day, a partnership with Barnes & Noble that gives all textbooks digitally on Canvas for a flat rate. 

Programs in the past, such as Book Advance, have attempted to alleviate the burden of textbook costs by using a portion of the money in a student’s financial aid refund. These programs still exist on the Newark and Camden campuses. 

If a student receives a financial aid refund of $500 or more, $500 will be deposited into an RU Book Advance account, according to the Book Advance program at Rutgers University—Newark. The money in this account can then be used at the Barnes & Noble Rutgers University—Newark bookstore.

But the Book Advance program has been discontinued on the Rutgers University—New Brunswick campus. The program is being replaced with First Day, a joint initiative between the University and the Barnes & Noble Rutgers University—New Brunswick bookstore. 

“My understanding is that First Day is being piloted in (New Brunswick),” said Courtney McAnuff, vice chancellor for Enrollment Management, when asked why the Book Advance program was discontinued at the Rutgers University—New Brunswick campus, but still continued at the Newark and Camden campuses. 

First Day offers a digital version of many course materials, including, but not limited to, textbooks, workbooks and problem sets as well as other digital materials such as videos, tutorials and simulations.

The program refunds the charge if a student drops a course that participates in it. But if the student chooses to re-register, they must pay the charge again. First Day is added as an optional fee on the student term bill.  

Students can opt out of the program if they desire, but they will still be responsible for all the work assigned that may be assigned through the program. The program allows access to the course material directly through Canvas. 

“I would think that’s helpful for students,” said Nidhi Kulkarni, a Rutgers Business School junior, when asked about her thoughts on First Day. “And if it’s truly the lowest price from the publisher, that would be financially beneficial to students.”

With the increasing digitization of course work and materials, having online access to materials such as textbooks and workbooks can prove beneficial. Students can carry all of their assignments on a laptop and access it from anywhere with a connection to the internet, according to the program's website

“Students can request the full cost of their books for the semester,” McAnuff said of students participating in the program. “Students can only get books at the on-campus Barnes & Noble.”

Students wishing to participate in the program must fill out an application and submit it to the Office of Financial Aid. After a committee reviews the application and the student becomes a recipient, they are only eligible for two semesters, according to the Book Advance website

Financial aid for textbooks has evolved from Book Advance to First Day. First Day is still very new, but with the gradual shift from Sakai to Canvas, the program might become more prevalent in the coming years. 

More students may enjoy the lowest prices from the publishers of their textbook, as First Day claims, and more students may have the opportunity to take advantage of this program, according to the website. 

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