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Access and affordability: A Q&A with Dr. Christine Harrington

Cengage author Christine Harrington, Executive Director of the Student Success Centre at the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges, is passionate about giving students the best academic experience. This passion is what drives her to connect students with high-quality, affordable course materials. Dr. Harrington recognizes that students are often reluctant to purchase course materials because of cost. Cengage Unlimited was created to address this problem.
What are the biggest challenges students face today, as a parent and author?
Students today have the advantage of having so much information at their fingertips, whether it’s via a button or voice command. However, many students struggle to find and evaluate the information they need to complete various tasks. It can be difficult to identify the most useful or meaningful information and determine the credibility of information. Students need to be able to access credible sources and learn information literacy skills that will benefit them professionally and personally.
Did you ever have students drop course materials because of cost? What impact did this have on learning outcomes?
As a first-year seminar instructor at a community college and a psychology professor, I have seen many students decide not to buy the book either for financial reasons or because the book is not worth their time.
It is vital that textbooks are made more affordable financially, and that faculty help students to see the value of these materials.
The text is the main resource for learning, so if it is not accessible financially, academic performance and learning are affected. It is essential to make textbooks more affordable financially and for faculty members to help students appreciate the value of these resources. Many of the digital tools that offer online support can be used to help students engage with the text and learn from it.
What changes have you seen in the publishing industry for higher education over the past ten years? And what impact has that had on students/learning
This is a problem because the cost of textbooks keeps rising. As a faculty member, I often have to choose between credibility and affordability when selecting textbooks. Many faculty are turning to open-source materials because of rising costs and concerns about equity. Although this is a positive shift and there are many high-quality open resource materials, it can also reduce faculty’s time for other important activities like mentoring students. Online tools that support student learning have seen a significant improvement, such as online quizzes. These tools can improve student learning and engagement.
What excites and satisfies you most about Cengage Unlimited
This innovative approach will allow more students to have access to high-quality resources at a reasonable price. Students are more likely to succeed if they have access to essential resources like the textbook.
To learn more about Cengage Unlimited, visit