Survey Shows College Students Are Spending Less on Textbooks

Used books section

August 1, 2012

While tuition and fees at many colleges in the U.S. may be on the rise, the same may not be true for the cost of textbooks.

According to a recent study released by the National Association of College Stores and done by its OnCampus Research division, students are spending less money on textbooks and related materials than they were two years ago, reports the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

Students also spent less money than they did five years ago, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. The savings, however, are "slight" compared to years past. For example, in the fall of 2011, students spent approximately $655 on course materials compared with $667 in 2009. In the fall of 2007, students spent an estimated $702 on course materials and books -- that's a $47 drop compared with 2011.

"This is terrific news for students, who continue to be pressured by the higher cost of attending college," said NACS' director of public relations Charles Schmidt in an NACS press release. "The steady decline in textbook spending indicates that the money-saving strategies college stores have implemented are working."

The cause for the slight decline could be multi-fold. Many college bookstores now give students the option of renting a textbook -- an option preferred by 74% of college students, according to NACS. In fact, this trend appears to have increased over the past two years and can lead to savings between 45 and 66 percent when compared to buying a new book. NACS also notes that purchasing used textbooks can result in a 25 percent savings while digital alternatives can result in 40 percent in savings.

James Koch, professor of economics and president emeritus at Old Dominion University, has his own ideas. He explained in an e-mail to The Chronicle of Higher Education that students are searching for the best textbooks deals by doing research online.

"The Internet has reduced student search costs and this appears to be paying off," Koch said.

NACS offers a number suggestions for how students can save on books. These include buying used when possible, renting or purchasing electronic versions and paying cash when possible to avoid interest and related fees on credit cards.

Students may also want to purchase electronic versions through companies such as CourseSmart. In fact, in a recent press release, the company says it has saved students more than $100 million on books and related materials since its 2007 inception. It offers some 30,000 titles coming from 33 publishers and the savings can be up to 60 percent when compared to buying a new textbook.

"Textbooks and materials required for my courses can be an overwhelming expense each semester," Colorado State University student Sara Redman, said in the press release. "Since I discovered CourseSmart, I have saved well over a thousand dollars."

Compiled by Maggie O'Neill


"College Textbook Spending Declining?", July 31, 2012, Karen Herzog

"CourseSmart Saves Students More than $100 Million on Textbooks and Course Materials,", July 24, 2012

"Student Spending on Textbooks Continues to Decline,", July 31, 2012

"Students Spent Slightly Less on Textbooks Last Year, Survey Finds,", July 31, 2012, Timothy Sandoval

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