Tuesday, April 16, 2024

How Much Do College Textbooks Cost

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Prescribed Textbooks Increase Demand

College Textbooks: Why Are They So Expensive?

Firstly, prescribed textbooks are just that: prescribed a student does not have much choice in the matter, other than risking the purchase of a previous edition and shouldering the tedious task of matching page numbers and chapters to the latest prescribed edition. This removes any incentive to provide textbooks at a lower price, at risk of students choosing not to purchase.

Cost Of Books And School Supplies

The average price of books and school supplies for students at both public and private colleges in 2021-2022 is $1,240.

Textbook prices have risen 812 percent since 1978, according to a 2019 report by Follet, an educational products company. Borrowing books from the library or purchasing digital or used textbooks can reduce your costs, but students still find budgeting for textbooks to be a major source of stress, according to a survey of current and former college students by textbook publisher Cengage. Thirty-one percent of the students surveyed said they took fewer classes to save on textbook costs, and 43 percent said they skipped meals or took out loans to pay for course materials.

Rising Costs Of Textbooks

Over the past decade, the average cost of college textbooks has risen four times faster than the rate of inflation. According to the College Board, institutional budgets for college students included around $1,240 to $1,460 for books and supplies during the 2020-21 academic year. Many students make sacrifices such as taking fewer classes or skipping meals to afford textbooks, and 72% of students reported using financial aid or scholarship money to pay for textbooks.

The costs of textbooks may have an even bigger effect on community college students. According to a report by U.S. PIRG, 50% of community college students use financial aid to pay for college textbooks, compared with 28% at public 4-year colleges and 22% at private 4-year colleges.

The chart below illustrates college textbook inflation based on the college textbook component of the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers . The data shows a generally downward trend, but also that college textbook inflation is still elevated.

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Open Source Textbooks: How Students Are Fighting Back

Student advocates dont expect the move toward truly affordable course materials to be led by publishers. Instead, theyre encouraging professors to adopt and help develop free, open source textbooks. Kharl Reynado, a senior at the University of Connecticut and the leader of PIRGs affordable textbooks campaign, told me shes had to pay upward of $500 for books and access codes and has dropped courses because she couldnt afford the costs. Ive had friends who spend entire paychecks on just their textbook costs in the beginning of the semester and had little money left over to cover food, gas, and sometimes, in extreme cases, rent because of it, she said.

We work closely with students and campus partners such as the UConn Library to promote open textbooks to different professors and educate students on their options, she added.

The real challenge is getting professors, who are ultimately responsible for which books get assigned, to adopt the free options. Professors dont assign books by major publishers or books with access codes because they want students to suffer they do it because, more often than not, its easier.

How Much Does The Average College Student Spend On Textbooks

Even after adjusting for inflation, here

There is a continuous decline in how much an average college student spends on textbooks and other course materials, as reported by several organizations.

According to Student Monitors Fall 2020 data, individual college students spending on course materials decreased by 7%, falling from $199 in Fall 2019 to $186 in Fall 2020. The revised College Board report shows a comparable figure of $410 spending on textbooks alone per year for public two-year and four-year institutions. Similarly, Student Watch reports $413 in spending for the 2019-2020 academic year.

The 2010 data shows nearly $700 spending on course materials . Florida Virtual Campus also reported that 53.2% of the students in their 2016 study spent more than $301 in the spring term. Hence, the decline in spending is significant.

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Is There Any Downside To Open Educational Resources

Two of the most common complaints about OER are that theres not a text available for every subject and that homework assignments and other accompanying materials for OER are not as well developed as commercial offerings. The good news is that both of those downsides are being addressed. Grants and funding allow for the steady creation of a larger base of customizable open textbooks and secondary resources.

Faculty members also express concern over the quality of OER. The quality of OER can vary, but many are written by experts and have faculty reviews available to assist instructors in selecting materials that suit their needs.

How Much Are College Students Spending On Textbooks And Course Materials

Many college students forget to factor in the cost of textbooks and other course materials when budgeting for a four-year university or community college. Some students use financial aid to cover the cost of textbooks, while other students pay out of pocket and college textbooks are not known for their affordability.

The College Board found the average cost of books and supplies at a private college was $1,240 during the 2019-2020 school year. That number could be even higher for certain majors and college courses. Ouch.

You might be tempted to go without certain textbooks. If so, think again. Its actually not a great alternative. A study by the nonprofit group U.S. PIRG found that while 65% of students opted not to buy at least one textbook because it cost too much, 94% of those students felt that it negatively affected their academic progress. No surprise there.

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Students Under Surveillance: Publishers & Data

Beyond the bloated costs publishers are charging students is another cost that is difficult to quantify: the collection of student data collected by education technology companies. In order to buy a access code, the e-book, or other material, the student must agree to fine print in the form of a TOU or EULA few understand or take the time to read.

Most EULAs represent a legal contract between the student and publisher allowing the publisher permission to sell or utilize student data. When a student creates an account, takes notes, contributes to discussions or class activities, or participates with the platform in any other way, their information is collected.

The information these companies request is required for the student to actually use the product. There is no opt-out. Publisher EULAs are not readily accessible unless you are actively in the process of signing up for the product. Publishers claim to de-identify data but with present-day technology it isnt a stretch that this data can easily be matched with other databases.

How Much Does College Cost Per Year


College can cost anywhere from $18,000 to over $50,000 a year depending on where you go to school, if youre an in-state or out-of-state resident and if you attend a public or private university. Aside from tuition and fees, your schools cost of attendance usually also includes room and board, books, transportation and other personal expenses.

Here was the average cost of college for a full-time undergraduate student living on or near campus for the 20192020 academic year, according to a 2019 College Board study.

  • Average cost of college in 201920
    $26,590 $18,420

As these numbers show, tuition isnt the only number you should look at. Room and board is also a significant part of the cost of attendance.

It was a quarter of the cost of attending a private school or a public school as an out-of-state student during the 20192020 academic year. And it was around 45% of the cost of public schools for in-state students and public two-year programs.

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Bls And Textbook Price Index

The primary source of public data for this question is the Consumer Price Index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics . The CPI sets up a pricing index based on a complex regression model. The index is set to 100 for December, 2001 when they started tracking this category. Using this data tool for series CUUR0000SSEA011 , we can see the pricing index from 2002 20141.

This data equates to roughly 6% year-over-year increases in the price index of new textbooks, roughly doubling every 11 years. But note that this data is not inflation-adjusted, as the CPI is used to help determine the inflation rate. Since the US average inflation rate over 2002 2014 has averaged 2%, this means that textbook prices are rising roughly 3 times the rate of inflation.

Pros And Cons Of College Housing Options

Once you choose a college, youll also need to find somewhere to live . Your housing choice can be an extension of college life or simply a place to sleep. Here are a few options to consider:


Living in a residence hall is a popular choice for first-year students. This all-inclusive option lets you meet new people outside the classroom and, along with available meal plans, is probably the best all-in-one choice. Pre-arranged study groups and activities in campus housing mean youll never be bored, and because residence halls are conveniently located, you dont need a car.

Residence hall living also means you can be more immersed in college life. This makes a dorm a great choice since most freshmen dont know anyone when they first arrive. On the downside, expect noise, a small and sparsely furnished living space, and minimal privacy. Youll probably be assigned a roommate, who may turn out to be your best friend . So while there are advantages and disadvantages to dorm living, its probably your best option to get a true taste of college life as a freshman.



Living in an apartment means you get to choose your roommate and make your own rules. By having a true space to call home, its easier to separate yourself from school, and, depending on the choices you make, this can be a fairly inexpensive living arrangement. Apartments offer more privacy and probably impose fewer restrictions on your activities than dorms.


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Explore Options For Digitial Textbooks

With the growing popularity of e-readers and tablets, many textbook publishers are offering digital textbooks. You may be able to purchase a digital textbook. The publishing industry can offer e-books and digital copies at a fraction of the price because they are not paying for as many physical copies being made.

Fall 2020 Updates: What Do College Students Actually Spend On Course Materials

How Much Do College Textbooks Cost?

In Spring 2015 I wrote a post on e-Literate looking at what college students actually spend on course materials in the US. At the time I was frustrated by the frequent yet inaccurate claims that the average spend was nearly $1,200 per year when the actual numbers were closer to $600 per year. The most commonly cited source for the $1,200 per year number was the College Board, but there were two problems with that usage:

  • The books and supplies category was used as a budget for financial aid purposes and did not even claim to represent a measure of what students actually spend.
  • The supplies part of that category went well beyond course materials.

I argued that the National Association of College Stores Student Watch reports and the Student Monitor reports were much more accurate measures of what students spend on course materials. See the original post and this follow-up if youd like to understand the data sources and usage.

Nevertheless, many advocacy groups continue to misuse the College Boards data, especially when introducing a free textbook program and making claims about how much money has been saved for students. While I am entirely sympathetic to the need and desire to lower textbook and course material prices for students, no one is served well by misleading information.

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How Can You Save Money On Textbooks

Some good news? The student today does have optionssometimes. In addition to the new, used, and rented options we had in the past, more and more textbooks are available in an online version. Online textbook downloads are instantly available without waiting for shipping. Todays students are much more comfortable using an online format than their parents may be.

Students can also shop online and compare to save money. Some online retailers like Chegg.com, eCampus.com, and are good options just to name a few. Often they provide free shipping over a certain amount.

About those access codesask the professor if they are really needed. Perhaps a used textbook can be purchased if the code is really just extra and not necessary for the course. In addition, some publishers are starting to sell the access codes separately. Do a little research on the book to find outperhaps check the publishers webpage.

A long-standing college tradition is the end-of-the-year college sell back of textbooks. If a book is not one a student wants to hold on to after that semester, sell it back. Online retailers also will buy back books from students. Renting books and returning them at the end of the semester is becoming increasingly popular.

Buy Used Books Whenever Possible

Buying used can save you big on textbooks. Plus, the more youre willing to tolerate heavy use, such as a previous owners overzealous use of highlighter, the more you can save.

Be on the lookout for book exchange groups on your campus. Its also a good idea to get to know students who are a year ahead in their studies who might be willing to sell you their old books.

Additionally, you can often find used textbooks on marketplaces like Chegg or Amazon. Many students sell their used textbooks to other students through these platforms to make money for their newer books. However, if your class requires the use of any one-time access codes that come with a new edition, you may need to purchase a new textbook.

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How Much Will I Pay Per Year

You could pay anywhere from $18,000 to nearly $50,000 per year to attend college it all depends on your financial aid package. Sometimes schools with a higher cost of attendance have generous financial aid packages that lead to a lower net price the amount you pay after you receive financial aid. It all depends on how large your schools endowment is for offering scholarships and grants to incoming students.

Your school determines your financial aid package by looking at two main factors: Whether youre considered a dependentmore info buttonmore info button and your family income.

Heres how much the average student paid for the 20152016 academic year based on different income levels:

Income level

How much will I pay for four years of college?

Its difficult to predict how much youll pay for four years of college since it depends on your financial aid package and how much your schools COA increases from year to year.

Heres how much tuition increased over the past decade by school type:

  • Private four-year school: 1.9%
  • Public four-year school: 2.2%
  • Public two-year school: 2%

Based on these percentage changes, you might expect to pay a net cost of $147,940.97 at a private four-year school and $41,898.01 at a public four-year institution in tuition and fees.

How much did college costs change last year?

Best Ways To Save Money On College Textbooks

What do books and materials cost for Pharmacy School?

With the high cost of higher education and textbook prices, many students are looking for every way possible to save money. Course materials may raise the cost of your student loans or force you to pay out of pocket for expensive books.

With the average student paying over $1,200 for their textbooks during the academic year, you will definitely benefit from learning how to save some money on your college textbooks. Some of our top tips include:

  • Buying used books whenever possible

  • Buying older editions

  • Researching open education resources

  • Looking out for textbook scholarships

  • Lets take a deeper look at some of the top ways you can save money on textbooks every year.

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    Infographic: Textbook Costs Skyrocket 812% In 35 Years

    Its no secret that textbook costs have escalated out of control.

    With new editions going for hundreds of dollars, outrageous prices have led to sub-economies in education focused on used textbook sales, textbook rentals, and even textbook piracy.

    For the most part, that only impacts post-secondary students who are responsible for their own books.

    But public school districts feel the pinch too. With hundreds of students in primary and secondary schools, textbooks have become an enormous expense especially for cash-strapped districts.

    To make matters worse, information in textbooks advances at such a rapid pace that most books are actually out of date by the time theyre printed.

    Overall, that means students and schools shell out for unreliable learning resources.

    So just how bad have textbook prices gotten?

    How Much Do College Textbooks Cost

    Whether purchasing books for college courses, the cost of text books can really add up. Each class usually requires at least one text book, sometimes two or three. Being purchased every semester, this means that the cost of textbooks could be an issue at least twice, maybe even four times per year.

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    The Cost Of College Textbooks

    College books are not cheap. An individual book will often cost well over $100, sometimes over $200. The cost of books for a year of college can easily top $1,000. This is true whether you attend a pricey private university or an inexpensive community collegeunlike tuition, room and board, the list price for any given book will be the same at any type of college.

    The reasons books cost so much are many:

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