When students step on the Warren County Community College campus in January, they can be sure of one thing — they will NOT be spending hundreds of dollars on course textbooks and other materials. In fact, the tab for a whole year won't even reach $150.

Through a first-of-its-kind partnership, the two-year school has overhauled the way it delivers books and other necessary course items to students.

Starting in the spring 2019 semester, all students will be signed up for a subscription service with Cengage, the country's biggest online publisher of textbooks. A one-time annual fee — automatically a part of a student's enrollment costs — gives them access to all "books" and learning materials in their courses of study.

Using the College Board estimate that students pay around $1,200 per year on books and supplies, WCCC puts a student's annual savings at more than 80 percent.

"A lot of students don't even buy the textbooks because they can't afford them, so therefore they're not performing at the level that they really should be performing at," said Samir Elbassiouny, executive assistant to the president for advancement and fundraising. "We feel this is another way to actually keep people in school."

Elbassiouny said the cost of textbooks is a common complaint among students, with some saying they pay more for the course material than for the course itself.

"It always resonates with our board of trustees," he said. "Their No. 1 priority is taking care of the students and making sure the students have access."

The material can be accessed on one's laptop, tablet or smartphone. And if some students still like the old-school way of learning, the Cengage platform allows for rentals of the real books for $7.99.

“It is no surprise that the cost of textbooks and course materials has become a barrier for far too many students. This is particularly true at community colleges, where course materials can average as much as 40 percent of the cost of tuition,” said Todd Markson, chief strategy officer for Cengage. “We applaud Warren County Community College’s leadership for their broad commitment to improving their students’ learning experience, and look forward to a strong partnership.”  

With the service, a student's log-in number gives them access to more than 22,000 products across 70 disciplines.

The school is the first in the nation to team up with Cengage. Elbassiouny said WCCC is hoping other institutions do the same.