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Survey: Buying Course Materials a Top Source of Financial Stress for Students

stressed out student looks up at a high pile of textbooks

Buying course materials is the No. 2 source of financial stress for students, after tuition, according to a new survey conducted by market research company Morning Consult on behalf of Cengage.

The survey polled 1,651 current and former college students across the United States, ages 18 to 30. While 88 percent of the respondents said their tuition expenses were financially stressful, 85 percent cited textbook and course materials, 73 percent cited housing, 69 percent cited healthcare, and 63 percent cited meals and food.  

Other findings include:

  • 87 percent of survey respondents consider textbooks and course materials to be overpriced;
  • 72 percent of respondents reported using financial aid or scholarship money to pay for textbooks;
  • 69 percent reported getting a job during the school year to pay for their course materials;
  • 61 percent shared a textbook with a friend or classmate;
  • 43 percent said they've skipped meals to save money for their course materials;
  • 31 percent of respondents have taken fewer classes to save on textbook costs, with minority students more likely to do so;
  • 81 percent said easily accessible digital course materials would "have a positive impact on their grades"; and
  • 72 percent consider cost-effectiveness a top consideration when buying digital course materials.

An infographic with additional survey findings is available on the Cengage website.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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