In October 2010, West Los Angeles College was awarded a FIPSE grant to implement an innovative program called the Instructional Materials Rental Initiative (IMRI). The design was uniquely posed to lead to four key outcomes: (1) significantly reduce of the cost of textbooks for students, enabling them to have necessary, affordable course materials for all aspects of course work, (2) engage with faculty to create and implement a rental-friendly materials adoption policy, (3) develop and implement a transformative and sustainable business model for the bookstore enabling it to thrive in an ever-changing environment, and (4) add to the body of knowledge on instructional materials rentals. The intention was that there would be a significant reduction in textbook costs for students, faculty would make more-informed, longer-term decisions about textbooks, and a model for sustainability would be developed that will be applied at the other eight Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) bookstores and be available for adoption, in full or in part, at other colleges across California and the nation.
Evaluation of IMRI to date (covering the Spring 2011, Fall 2011, and Spring 2012 semesters) has revealed that (1) a fully functional course materials rental program can established by the end of the grant period, (2) the rental program saves students significant sums of money each semester, (3) preliminary indications are that students who rent course materials achieve slightly higher grades than students who do not rent course materials, (4) it is now possible for students to complete an AA or IGETC certification program of study by enrolling in courses with rental friendly course materials, (5) IMRI is an effective methodology for getting textbooks into students’ hands at the start of the semester, (6) sister colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District are expressing interest in the IMRI model, and (7) IMRI appears to be sustainable when the federal funding is no longer available. While these initial outcomes are promising, additional time and measurement is needed to ensure consistency in data gathering, analysis, and evaluation of the long-term impact of IMRI on student success and as a sustainable financial model for bookstore operation.
To date, grant funding was utilized to increase the number of IMRI titles available for rental at extended discounts in Fall 2011 by adding any title that could be rented in at least two consecutive semesters to the IMRI rental program in response to the time needed for faculty to adjust their decision/adoption processes for course materials, which is critical to the long-term IMRI pricing model. IMRI titles increased from 15 in Spring 2011 to 50 in Fall 2012 to 54 in Spring 2012 to accomplish four key objectives: (1) influence demand for IMRI rentals and support for rental friendly adoption agreements, (2) study student response to textbook rentals, (3) study the impact of textbook rentals on student achievement outcomes, and (4) determine the impact of textbook rentals on Bookstore sales. It is expected that the number of course sections for which rental friendly textbooks will be available will continue to increase as will student demand.