Students will no longer have free access to the New York Times website and online archives after the Times increased the cost of campus-wide access in late October. The Student Government Association (SGA), which oversaw and funded the Times subscription program, announced the development last month. The Times changed the price of campus-wide access without notice, according to SGA President Nia Robinson ’19.
According to Robinson, a New York Times subscription representative told her that annual access will now cost the SGA either $15,444 for just students (excluding faculty, staff and visitors) or $27,394 for full campus-wide access.With such a price tag, the SGA has reached out to gauge student support, with Senior Senators Alexis Levato ’19 and Travis Sanderson ’19 sending a class-wide survey to seniors looking for anonymous input on the issue.
“NYT subscription is the norm at all other colleges,” one student wrote. “It would be embarrassing for Middlebury to not have one.”
However, some students also found the cost too steep.
“Midd is already in dire financial straits. We should not spend $15k on NYT,” one respondent wrote.
Other colleges and universities, including Bucknell, Iowa State and Louisiana State, have faced similar problems in recent years when deciding whether or not to fund campus-wide access to The Times. In each of these cases, student governments have teamed up with campus libraries to fund access.
The SGA has reached out to the library to seek funding for the New York Times program. Douglas Black, the head of collections management at Davis Family Library, first reached out to the Center for Research Libraries, a consortium of college libraries, in the hopes of getting a better price. The consortium, which specializes in bulk purchasing of licenses and access to publications and databases, was unable to help lower the annual price for campus-wide access to The Times.
Black calculated that the library currently spends $12,231 on its own New York Times services, which include receiving two of the same print copies per day, academic passes for Bread Loaf students in the summer, digital microfilm and ProQuest Historical Newspapers. The library has never footed the bill for students’ academic-year online access.
While Black said he has no philosophical issue with helping to fund future access, he says the library needs to ensure they have the available funds to do so. At the SGA senate meeting on Nov. 11, Robinson reported that the library was willing to commit to helping fund the online subscription for the 2019-2020 school year, as their budget is already set for the current school year.
Black also noted that The Times has raised and lowered its paywall for group access numerous times in recent years depending on its print sales, which can be frustrating for planning out the cost of future years’ subscription.
One of the main reasons for the high price tag is The Times accounting for potential lost revenue.
“Libraries and colleges are often charged more because The Times feels that participants in the group rate will discontinue their personal subscriptions,” Black said.
According to the New York Times, a student subscription costs $52 per year (compared to $195 per year for non-students). While this is a significant discount, campus-wide access would remove any potential financial burden on students.
The SGA also funds the physical copies of the New York Times that are supplied in all three dining halls. According to SGA treasurer Isabella Martus ‘19, the SGA sets aside $9,500 (subscription) and $1,700 (delivery) per year for these physical copies. It is currently unclear whether the change in the online policy will affect the price of these physical copies or the SGA’s willingness to continue to supply them.
Robinson lamented The Times’ new online policy.
“The NYT change has been a frustration to figure out,” Robinson said. “It’s definitely a priority and necessity, but we have to make sure we can afford it.”
In the coming weeks, the SGA will examine its own budget, continue to consult with the library on its available funds, and possibly look elsewhere for ways to support the program. According to several SGA senators, motivation to do so will be driven by student feedback.