College Course Materials: Are Students Spending Less?

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Cengage UnlimitedResearch
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Over the past six years, student spending on course materials has declined 35–39 percent, according to new reports from Student Watch and Student Monitor, two organizations that research college student spending and trends. This decline in spending is in part due to the increase in innovative, affordable options for students, according to the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

Image by AAP

The Student Monitor report found that student spending on materials for the 2019–20 academic year decreased yet again to $413, down from a high of nearly $700 in 2010.

New models, including subscriptions like Cengage Unlimited, are helping lower costs for students. According to Student Monitor Managing Partner Eric Weil, students “can take advantage of one of these new subscription programs providing unlimited access to print and digital for either a single term or the entire academic year for a flat subscription price. From a student’s perspective, nothing could be more convenient than a subscription model that provides you everything that you need at a discounted price.”

In conjunction with Student Watch and Student Monitor, AAP released a video highlighting the findings from the research:

Data Highlights:

Student spending declines:

  • Students spent $413 on course materials during the 2019–20 academic year—down from $415, or a 0.5% decline from the prior year (Student Watch)
  • Spending on course materials dropped to $422 for the 2019–20 academic year—down from $492, or a 14% decline from the prior year (Student Monitor)

Growth in digital meets decline in print:

  • Use of digital materials continues to grow – One in every five paid materials was a digital unit this year, compared to one in seven paid materials last year—a sharp increase year over year (Student Watch)
  • Students embraced a range of options – 48 percent still preferred some type of print book, while 21% preferred digital only—up 7% from prior year (Student Watch)
  • Decline in used print buying – Used print books made up 39% of students’ purchased course materials in 2019–20, compared to 47% the year prior (Student Watch)

To learn how Cengage Unlimited has saved students over $200 million since its fall 2018 launch, visit us here.