Student Monitor Fall 2020 Preview: Multi-Year Decline in Student Spending on College Course Materials Continues

Average student spending on college textbooks and course materials continued to decline during the fall semester of 2020, dropping 7% compared to the same term last year, according to a special preview of the latest data from independent research firm Student Monitor. A high-level version of Student Monitor’s Fall 2020 report is due out in November, followed by the full report in December.

“We are pleased to once again partner with Student Monitor to offer a sneak peek of its Fall 2020 report, which reaffirms the incredible array of options that students and college administrators have today to access course materials and improve learning outcomes,” said Kelly L. Denson, Vice President of Education Policy and Programs at the Association of American Publishers. “The consistent decline in student spending on textbooks and other learning materials is a clear illustration of education publishers’ longstanding commitment to affordability initiatives that put students and educators first.”

According to Student Monitor, average student spending on course materials was $186 for the Fall 2020 semester, a decline of 7% when compared to the Fall 2019 spend of $199. The decline was primarily the result of a shift in spending from print textbooks to lower-cost eTextbooks. At the same time the number of units purchased or rented increased by 3%, including a 23% increase in spending on eTextbooks.

“During the fall semester of 2020, distance learning drove widespread adoption of less expensive eTextbooks in both sales and rentals – including through subscription models – leading to a 7% decline in spending as compared to the same period last year,” commented Eric Weil, Managing Partner, Student Monitor. “At the same time, the volume of sales increased by 3%, which means that students are buying more course materials than last year, but they’re purchasing less expensive digital alternatives.”
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