One of BYU-Idaho's imperatives is to make the cost of education more affordable and available to more students. The University Store is working to aid in this effort through reducing the cost of course materials.
"Not only are BYU-Idaho and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doing awesome things, they're so awesome that our vendors are helping us," said Ryan Buttars, director of the University Store.
According to Buttars, Microsoft was the first vendor to reduce charges to the university for their products. Originally, Microsoft gave most universities an educational discount, but Buttars said the corporation decided to discontinue their educational discounts sometime in 2010 and issue a flat retail for all universities.
After the notice, Buttars recalled being in a phone conversation with on-campus staff, church administrators, and Microsoft officials, trying to work out a discount.
"Microsoft asked us to tell them about our goals and initiatives as an institution. So we told them about Pathway and about how we pay for a lot of the students' tuition. They loved that so much, they decided to give Microsoft Office to our students for free so long as the university pays the download fee."
Buttars said he was originally nervous about the deal since the University Store sold approximately $400,000 in retail per year in Microsoft Office downloads alone. However, the new contract saved students collectively $1.6 million within the first three years in Microsoft Office downloads.
More recently, the University Store started a digital content program called "Auto Access" where students can access books in their online courses. These course materials are available in I-Learn on the first day of class, but charges won't appear on students' accounts until after the add/drop deadline.
If Auto Access is available for a student's course, they will receive a series of e-mails throughout the semester with instructions for how to access the materials or how to opt out so they won't be charged at the add/drop date. Dropping out of the course before the add/drop date will opt the student out of the Auto Access as well. The e-mail also notes that some Auto Access materials may not offer an option to opt out if the materials are unavailable anywhere else.
"So you don't have to go get in line. You don't have to pick up books. In a lot of cases it's just cheaper," Buttars said. "The average a student spends here is less than half the national average."
Many of these Auto Access courses and other materials in the University Store are more affordable largely in part to their vendors. According to Buttars, this is because the vendors believe in the university's efforts to provide quality and affordable education to more students worldwide.
"These other vendors and publishers we're working with, have actually come to the table and said, 'We like what you're doing, we're going to give you a 90 percent discount' and so we're able to get those to a student that needs it at a price they can afford," Buttars said.