Press Release

Publisher Affordability Campaigns Deliver Decline in Student Spending on College Course Materials During 2021-2022 Academic Year

Publisher Affordability Campaigns Deliver Decline in Student Spending on College Course Materials During 2021-2022 Academic Year

Most Recent Data Continues Long-Term Trend, with Independent Research from Student Watch and Student Monitor Identifying Decline of Between 44% and 48% over the Past Decade

Average student spending on college course materials declined during the 2021-2022 school year according to reports from two leading independent research firms.  

Comparing the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 Academic Years

The most recent report from Student Watch, which is funded by the National Association of College Stores Foundation, found that student spending went from $456 during the 2020-2021 academic year to $339 for the 2021-2022, a decline of 26 percent. 

Similarly, independent research firm Student Monitor found that average student spending on college course materials, including textbooks and digital materials, declined 22 percent going from $405 last year to an average of $314 for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“This year’s average course material spending is the lowest we’ve recorded over the past 15 years,” said Lacey Wallace, Research Analyst at the National Association of College Stores.

A Decade Long Trend

Both research firms also reported dramatic declines in student spending over the past decade, with Student Watch finding a drop of 48 percent over the past ten years, going from $655 during the 2011-2012 to just $339 for 2021-2022 academic year.

Similarly, Student Monitor reported a 44 percent decline over the same period, with student spending in the category going from an average $557 during 2011-2012 to just $314 for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“Course materials are more affordable now than at any time in the past decade, in large part because Students are tailoring their purchases to the requirements of their individual courses, and taking full advantage of some of the new affordable options,” commented Eric Weil, Managing Partner, Student Monitor. 

Freedom of Choice: Providing Faculty and Students with Options

“Higher education publishers have continued to focus on both quality and affordability, and the results have been remarkable,” commented Kelly Denson, Vice President, Education Policy and Programs, AAP. “Student spending on course materials has declined during the past decade — dropping a substantial 44 to 48 percent — publishers have dramatically expanded their offerings, providing high-quality content and courseware within delivery models like Inclusive Access, and rental options in addition to digital, loose leaf print, and individual learning apps. The result gives both faculty and students the freedom and flexibility to choose the materials that work best for their financial and academic needs.”


The 2022 Student Watch survey involved 11,800 students across 39 two- and four-year institutions. 

The Student Monitor findings are the result of hour-long, one-on-one, on campus intercept interviews conducted among 1,412 four-year, full time undergraduates attending 94 representative colleges and universities.