New trends in course materials aim to help Millennials

A new report reveals that the cost of student course materials are down thanks to flexible price comparison technology, as well as other student spending behaviors.

student-course-materialsAccording to a new report from the National Association of College Stores (NACS), annual student spending on college course materials in the U.S. has declined steadily over the past seven years. However, the number of required materials have remained steady.

The information comes from the Spring 2015 edition of the twice-yearly survey called Student Watch: Attitudes and Behaviors toward Course Materials, which revealed that the average annual spending from surveyed college students on required materials has dropped from $701 in 2007-2008 to $563 in 2014-2015, down $75 from 2013-2014’s $638 average.

“Many cost estimates are based on purchases of new materials, but the reality is that because of the myriad options students have today – rentals, digital, used and print-on-demand – what students are actually spending is much less than what is generally reported,” said Elizabeth Riddle, director of OnCampus Research for NACS subsidiary indiCo. “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.”

It is important to note that freshman take the hardest financial hit on textbooks, technology and school supplies, since they are starting from scratch. Additionally, a student’s major dictates spending to some degree, with Health and Political Science topping the charts at $800 per year while Humanities majors spend the least at $550 a year.

Other factors influencing the trend in declining student spending include faculty being more aware of student cost concerns; faculty working with campus stores to source less costly materials in use for multiple semesters; college stores increasing used course material options and enhanced buyback pricing; and the growing prevalence of free Open Educational Resources (OER) and digital formats online.

(Next page: where students fall on print vs. digital, and other course material trends revealed)