Student Watch Reports a 57% Decline in Student Spending on Course Materials over a Decade

Average student spending on college course materials, including textbooks and digital materials, continued its decade-long decline during the 2022-2023 course year, according to the latest independent research from Student Watch. Released last week, the report noted that average student spending was $285 for the academic year. Since 2012-13, student spending on course materials has dropped a dramatic 57%.

A May, 2023 report from Student Monitor, a second independent research group, also found a dramatic decade-long decline of 41% in student spending on course materials, with an average spend of $333 per student for the 2022-2023 academic year.

“We’ve noticed a really consistent decrease in student course material spending over time,” said Lacey Wallace, Research Analyst for the National Association of College Stores, which produces the Student Watch Report. “This year was actually the lowest recorded course material spending in 16 years since we began tracking that measure. As the space shifts to digital, costs do decrease. A lot of inclusive access programs are digital first.”

Inclusive Access is a course material model developed by colleges across the country to deliver learning resources to students at the lowest market rate, on or before the first day of class. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education issued federal guidance for institutions of higher learning to charge for course materials as part of tuition and fees, reducing the level of effort it takes for students to utilize their financial aid dollars for timely use on their course materials.

According to Student Watch, the number of students enrolled in Inclusive Access has increased to 44% of the student population, up from 39% last year.

“Students say the reason they are so happy with the program is one, they get all their materials by the first day of class, and number two, they like the convenience of not having to shop around at a lot of different sources to find what they need for their classes,” said Wallace.
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