Opinion: Access codes are absurd


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In the age where everything is digital, making students pay for online access to their assignments while they’re already paying for textbooks, tuition and other fees just is too far.

Many digital learning sites force students to purchase access codes in order to do their homework, and it is ridiculous. 

In the age where everything is digital, it is no surprise that professors are assigning homework, tests and quizzes online. However, making students pay for access to their assignments while they’re already paying for textbooks, tuition and other fees is just too far.  

When a student purchases an access code they receive access to a digital version of the textbook, along with the work they are required to accomplish. Some of the well-known sites include Pearson, WileyPlus, MyMathLab and Cengage.  

Students have been required to purchase textbooks for generations; that is not the issue. The issue is when students are no longer able to purchase their books from cheaper alternatives – Amazon, Chegg, textbooks.com – for their classes. Instead, students are forced to buy the more expensive option through the school to gain access to the homework. 

NIU’s accounting 306 course, financial accounting information for business decisions, requires students to purchase a $120 textbook and access code for WileyPlus. Alternatively, the textbook can be rented through the WileyPlus site for $55. However, students do not have access to their homework without the access code, thus forcing them to pay for the more expensive option. Students are essentially paying to do their homework, on top of paying for the course itself through tuition.

To break it down, the average undergraduate student at Northern Illinois University pays $4,895 in tuition each semester. Additionally, there is a $90 per credit hour general fee and students are charged $250 per term toward an “academic program enhancement fee,” according to the university’s website.

Students should go into their financial account on the MyNIU student system website, click on “Term account detail” under account services, and see just what fees the university is charging them. For example, I am being charged $48 for a“foreign language lab material fee,” and “communication studies material fee,” but I have already purchased books for these courses and we don’t use any “lab materials.”  

Students are already being slapped with many fees on top of their tuition, transportation, room and board. They shouldn’t have to pay for their homework too. 

Michal Brylinski, senior business administration marketing major, is no stranger to the frustrations of paying for access codes. He had to purchase four in the 2022 spring semester. 

As a full time student, Brylinski was paying tuition, but he was also required to purchase access codes for many of his classes. The bright side was that two of his classes used the same site, so he was able to save with a bundle deal. However, he still ended up with three separate softwares he had to pay for. 

“It’s definitely displeasing because I am already spending a lot of money on tuition and everything else associated with it,” Brylinski said. “Fitting several different softwares into my budget at the end of everything is a lot.” 

Brylinski said he believes that the university should do more by providing access codes to students at a more affordable rate. 

“They should definitely have some better deals with the producers of that software to allow them (students) to buy it cheaper, if not free,” Brylinski said. 

It cannot be stated enough, having to pay to access your homework is ridiculous. It wasn’t that long ago when teachers only required standard textbooks and created their own assignments from the text. 

“It could have been planned for a little better,” Brylinski said. “Maybe a little bit more work on the professors’ side instead of just kind of pushing it off on the software company.” 

As frustrating as it is, access codes aren’t going to suddenly disappear; but that doesn’t mean that professors and universities cannot do their part in minimizing that unnecessary cost.