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Average Annual Cost of Textbooks at $602

Students spent less on average for their course materials this year than last year; and that's way lower than they paid a decade ago.

That figure was pulled from the latest results reported by the National Association of College Stores, which surveyed college students in the United States and Canada.

The study, "Student Watch: Attitudes and Behaviors toward Course Materials: 2015-2016 Report," found that students spent an average of $602 on their purchased and rented required course materials last school year, compared with$563 in in the 2014-2015 school year. The survey authors noted that the rise between 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 was primarily due to a change in how responses were weighted. The unweighted total spending average for the latest year was $559, making it a lower average cost than 2014-2015. However, the average in 2007-2008 was $701, about 14 percent higher than the latest cost.

The average number of textbooks needed each year is nine, and the average cost for the most expensive of those was $145 in the spring 2016 semester, compared to $140 in fall 2015. The average price per textbook or other course content was $67, up from an average of $53 in the 2007-2008 academic year.

The same survey found that 4 in 10 students said they prefer a printed textbook format; and a quarter of students (26 percent) said they would choose a combination of print and digital materials. Convenience (56 percent) and lower cost (45 percent) were cited as the two primary reasons students said they prefer digital curriculum. Three-quarters of students said they have used a digital resource at least once during their college careers.

The survey also found that campus stores "dominate" the rental textbook market. During the fall term alone, 40 percent of students rented their textbooks and course materials, while 86 percent purchased them and 11 percent borrowed them. Overall, 80 percent of students said they hit the campus store for their course material and 57 percent head to online or other retailers.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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