Research

Report: Students Shun New Textbooks to Reduce Education Expenses

A new survey from CampusBooks.com analyzes student loan debt, textbook costs, use of electronic devices and more.

Nearly two-thirds of recent graduates from four-year colleges and universities carry student loan debt, and more than half of current students carry some form of student debt, according to a new survey released by CampusBooks.com.

The site reports that the average cost of a college textbook is $84.14, and students spend a mean amount of $488 per semester on 5.8 textbooks. In an effort to reduce the cost of their education, the majority of students are purchasing alternatives to new books. The average new textbook depreciates 40 percent over one semester and by 60 percent over two semesters, according to data from CampusBooks.com. When a new edition of a textbook is released, the previous edition loses almost all of its value.

Key survey findings related to student loan debt:

  • 63 percent of recent graduates carry student loan debt;
  • 56 percent of students at four-year institutions carry some form of student debt; and
  • 66 percent of students work either full- or part-time during school.

Key findings related to textbooks:

  • 67 percent of students buy used textbooks, 55 percent rent, 25 percent buy new and 25 percent download e-textbooks;
  • Nearly 66 percent of students have opted out of buying a textbook due to the cost;
  • The proportion of students who buy new textbooks decreases as their tenure in school increases, and the proportion of students who rent textbooks increases significantly;
  • The mean amount students spend per-semester on textbooks is $572 in the freshman year, $531 in the sophomore year, $439 in the junior year and $421 in the senior year;
  • 63 percent of students search for content online to overcome the lack of a textbook, and 58 percent share textbooks with friends; and
  • 55 percent of students sell their books back to a campus bookstore after using them, 48 percent keep their books, 45 percent sell their used books online and 35 percent sell the books to other students.

Key findings related to electronic devices:

  • 94 percent of students own a smartphone, up from 90 percent in 2014;
  • 89 percent of students own a laptop, down from 96 percent in 2014;
  • 36 percent of students say texting is their main smartphone use, followed by using apps at 19 percent;
  • E-reader use is down by 22 percent;
  • Tablet ownership is up by 15 percent, although average use of tablets for education purposes decreased by 31 percent; and
  • 33 percent of students spend six to 10 hours per week on social media.

CampusBooks.com is a web service that searches thousands of sellers and compares prices on new and used books, rentals and e-books for students. The site offers a "Buy or Rent" tool that lets students search and compare prices of new, used, rental and e-textbooks across online retailers. The company also offers a free app for iPhone and Android.

The research firm Campbell Rinker conducted the online survey on behalf of CampusBooks from May 5–10, 2016. A total of 1,067 full-time students from four-year colleges and universities in the United States completed the survey.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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