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Rafter, a course materials management platform that grew out of textbook rental site Bookrenter earlier this year, today announced that it had acquired four-month-old startup HubEdu. Launched in March, HubEdu provides a software platform that helps colleges and their bookstores improve efficiency and operations while reducing costs for students.
Rafter CEO Mehdi Maghsoodnia said the company has expanded its footprint to more than 260 active schools (500 have signed up), but the one thing campus administrators continue to ask for is more sophisticated analytics around pricing, price comparison features, as well as better tools for adoption. With HubEdu, the company will gain an inventory analytics system to optimize store pricing, tracking systems to monitor student purchase behavior and price comparison capabilities.
“The cost of tuition and education is getting higher and higher… one of our primary cost factors outside of tuition is the cost of textbooks and content,” said Maghsoodnia. “We’re trying to find the cheapest content on behalf of the students.”
For individual schools, the process of navigating the complicated textbook industry (which is become increasingly complicated as more of it becomes digital and interactive) is expensive and time-consuming. But with Rafter’s platform, he said, school administrators and students can more easily weigh their content options – which range from traditional textbooks to more exotic interactive content – and make the selections that work best with their budgets.
It’s worth noting that open educational resources (read: free) are becoming more available. In April, Boston-based Boundless Learning announced that it raised $8 million to bring a free textbook alternative to students. But they’re not without challenges and, regardless, Maghsoodnia’s bet is that education will continue to be a major area of expenditure. The San Mateo, Calif. company, which launched as Bookrenter in 2006, has raised $56 million.