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Western Governors U Signs Textbook Pay-for-Performance Deal

Western Governors University , an experiment in online higher education, is now trying an experiment with a textbook company. The university has just struck a unique deal with McGraw-Hill Education, which provides both printed textbooks and digital materials, to run a "pay-for-performance" model. The publishing company will receive "variable compensation" for its e-books and related learning tools based on how well the student does in the course in which the resources are used.

In this project, McGraw-Hill will provide e-books and access to software, such as McGraw-Hill's adaptive learning system, LearnSmart, and the university will pay a "significantly discounted flat fee" for the materials. In addition, Western Governors will also pay the company a premium for each student who uses the materials and receives a B or better grade in the course.

In a joint statement, the two organizations declared that the structure would enable both parties to "share in the accountability for student success."

"This landmark agreement works to achieve two of the most pressing objectives in higher education: improving student performance and lowering costs," explained Brian Kibby, president of McGraw-Hill Education.

Tuition at the private, nonprofit university is about $6,000 per 12-month year, a cost that has increased by only about $200 in the past six years. Currently, the university charges the student a flat tuition rate for a given study program. The tuition covers all coursework attempted by the student as well as digital learning resources and assessments needed. It doesn't cover printed textbooks that individual students may need. Some programs also charge special fees on top of the program cost. For example, a business bachelor's degree is $2,890 per term; a nursing program is $3,250 per term as well as a one-time $350 program fee.

"This partnership with McGraw-Hill Education is consistent with our goals--to find innovative ways to reduce the cost and improve the quality of higher education," said university President Robert Mendenhall. "In addition, it helps support our objective of reinforcing accountability among our partners as well as our students."

McGraw Hill is no stranger to Western Governors. Robert Evanson, former president of McGraw Hill Education, joined the university's board of trustees in 2005.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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