Press Release

New Data Shows Continued Decline In Student Spending On College Course Materials

New Data Shows Continued Decline In Student Spending On College Course Materials

Washington, DC – December 12, 2019 — Average student spending on college textbooks and course materials continued to decline during the fall semester of 2019, dropping 23 percent compared to the same term last year, according to the latest data from independent research firm Student Monitor.

According to Student Monitor, the average student spent $205 to buy or rent course materials during the fall term, down from $265 for the 2018 fall term.

The new data continues a multi-year trend: a September 2019 report from Student Monitor showed a decline of 29 percent in student spending on learning materials over the past five years. The Student Monitor findings are the result of comprehensive, one-on-one, on-campus interviews with four-year, full-time undergraduates attending 93 colleges and universities.

The Student Monitor data mirrors similar numbers from a multi-year survey from Student Watch, which reported a drop in spending of 35 percent over the past five years. Student Watch’s methodology involved a survey of more than 20,000 students across 42 institutions. Student Watch is funded by the National Association of College Stores.


The ongoing decline in spending on course materials reflects the fact that students are taking full advantage of the new, cost-effective options that publishers have made available, including initiatives such as Inclusive Access, which provides students with course materials on the first day of class, often at a reduced cost. Other options like subscription models provide unlimited access to a range of textbooks, open course materials, online homework access codes and study guides, all for one price.

During the fall 2019 semester Student Monitor found that spending on course materials was distributed over a wide range of options. Out of the $205 in average student spending during the semester the organization found that an average of $87 was spent on new, print textbooks; $42 on used, print textbooks; $39 on rented, print textbooks; $19 on eTextbooks with unlimited use; $12 on eTextbooks with limited-time use; and $6 on online homework solutions. Each of these categories saw a decline in average spending compared to the 2018 fall term.

About AAP

AAP | The Association of American Publishers represents the leading book, journal, and education publishers in the United States on matters of law and policy, advocating for outcomes that incentivize the publication of creative expression, professional content, and learning solutions. As essential participants in local markets and the global economy, our members invest in and inspire the exchange of ideas, transforming the world we live in one word at a time. Find us online at or on twitter at @AmericanPublish.