course materials

High college costs lead students to skip course materials

A survey reveals that rising higher education costs sometimes force students to forego purchasing course materials, leading to lower grades

According to a new survey by Wakefield Research for VitalSource, the high cost of college, including textbooks, is causing students to wait to purchase required course materials until after the beginning of classes or not at all, even though many know it affects their ability to succeed academically.

More than 500 students were surveyed and overwhelmingly cite costs as the driving factor in that decision.

“As the cost of college continues to rise, we are seeing students make hard choices to make higher education attainable,” said Pep Carrera, Chief Operating Officer of VitalSource. “Sometimes that means not having access to all the tools and materials they need. Unfortunately, the research shows it is coming at a cost to student success.”

According to the survey results, 72 percent of students have waited to purchase course materials until after the class had started and more than one in four (27 percent) forgo the purchase altogether.

For those students who are not delaying or avoiding purchases, supplemental ways of paying for course materials have been found:

  • 55 percent have purchased older versions of course materials
  • 47 percent have gotten a job
  • 46 percent have shared materials with a classmate
  • 44 percent have used financial aid money to pay for them

The survey indicates 77 percent of students overwhelmingly favor colleges offering the option to purchase course materials as part of tuition. Of the students, 47 percent state their institution does not allow this currently and 17 percent did not know if they were afforded this option.

Of the students attending schools that allow students to have course materials included with tuition, 74 percent are confident their school negotiates the best price for the course materials.

The VitalSource Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 500 currently enrolled college students between May 11 and 18, 2016, using an email invitation and an online survey.

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Laura Ascione