OBERLIN, Ohio, July 17, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Annual student spending on college course materials has declined steadily over the past seven years, according to the National Association of College Stores' (NACS) twice-yearly survey of college students in the U.S.
The study, Student Watch™: Attitudes and Behaviors toward Course Materials: Spring 2015 shows that average annual spending by students on required course materials has dropped from $701 in 2007/2008 to $563 in 2014/2015. The $563 average also dropped approximately $75, from $638, between the 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 academic years.
Many factors have influenced this downward trend, says Elizabeth Riddle, director of OnCampus Research, the research arm of indiCo, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NACS.
"Many cost estimates are based on purchases of new materials, but the reality is that because of the many options students have today – rentals, digital, used and print-on-demand – what students are actually spending is much less than what is generally reported," Riddle said. "Campus stores, the leading resource for acquiring course materials, also have implemented more effective buying practices, increased used books and rental programs, and offered materials in multiple formats to help ease students' burden."
Costs down, but students still obtaining same number of course materials
While student spending on course materials has declined, the number of course materials being acquired has remained consistent across fall academic terms. In Fall 2009, students obtained 5.3 course materials; 5.0 were acquired in Fall 2013, and students purchased 5.3 in Fall 2014. These numbers exclude course materials obtained for free (borrowing, downloading, sharing).
"This is a true reflection of a decrease in prices," Riddle says. "This number has remained relatively consistent over time; however, student spending on course materials has continued to drop. So this information suggests that on average, the cost of course materials is slowly decreasing while the number of required course materials students are obtaining for each class may be slightly increasing."
Other factors influencing the trend in declining student spending include:
- Faculty are more aware of student cost concerns and are working with campus stores to source less costly materials and use the same course materials for multiple semesters.
- College stores are increasing used course material options and enhanced buyback pricing.
- Students have become savvier shoppers, spending more time researching affordable options through multiple outlets. Price comparison software has enabled much of this flexibility.
- Open Educational Resources (OER), digital formats, and borrowed materials have combined to help students spend less overall on required materials.
Price comparison technology, Riddle says, located on many college store websites, compares prices of course materials (new, used and rentals) both in-store and online with many online-only retailers, helping students make smart choices and offering the convenience of one-stop shopping.
Preference of print vs. digital course materials is individual choice
While 46% of students say they prefer print course materials because of the usability and familiarity of print (despite a likely higher price tag), use of digital course materials are slowly but steadily climbing in use, about three percent this academic year. The survey found that when it comes to digital course materials, convenience is the primary reason behind their purchase. The ability to easily transport the material is the top reason for going digital, with price ranking second in importance and the versatility of the digital functionality, like search and find, coming in third. Students who prefer digital appreciate the interactive nature of the materials, which they indicate improves their ability to study and learn the coursework, Riddle said.
About The National Association of College Stores
The National Association of College Stores (NACS) is the professional trade association representing the $10 billion collegiate retailing industry. NACS represents nearly 3,000 campus retailers and approximately 1,000 industry-related companies that supply course materials and other merchandise and services to campus stores. NACS provides education and other resources that help its member stores support student success, the campus experience, and the academic missions of higher education institutions. NACS is headquartered in Oberlin, Ohio. Additional information can be found online at www.nacs.org.
About the Student Watch™ Survey
Student Watch™ is conducted online twice year, in the fall and spring terms. Campus stores distributed the survey to their students by email. Each campus survey fielded for a two or three week period in February 2015. A total of 9,647 valid responses were collected. The margin of error for this study is 1.0 at the 95% confidence level. Twenty-three campuses across 16 states were selected to participate based on the following factors: public vs. private schools, two-year vs. four-year degree programs, enrollment size, and geographic location.
SOURCE National Association of College Stores