Monthly Archives: June 2020

Student Spending on College Course Materials Continues Multi-Year Decline

Independent Research from Student Watch and Student Monitor Unveiled in New Reports, Video

June 25, 2020 (Washington, D.C.) – Average student spending on college textbooks and digital course materials has steadily declined in recent years, according to new data unveiled today from Student Watch, which is funded by the National Association of College Stores Foundation, and Student Monitor, an independent research firm.

In its new annual report, Student Watch reports a decline in student spending on course materials of 35 percent over the past six years, while Student Monitor’s semi-annual report similarly indicates a 39 percent decline over the same time period.

“Students are actually spending less on college course materials than we have seen them spend before,” commented Brittany Conley, Research Analyst, On Campus Research for the National Association of College Stores (NACS). “We saw that students spent about $413 across the academic year on course materials. Ten years ago, that number was closer to $700.”

“Students’ out of pocket spending for learning materials and textbooks continues to decline year after year after year,” commented Eric Weil, Managing Partner, Student Monitor LLC.

The new data on the multi-year decline in student spending is highlighted in a video interview with representatives from the two research organizations, which can be seen here.

AAP Video: Student Spending on College Course Materials Continues Multi-Year Decline from Cara Duckworth on Vimeo.

Student Monitor Report

Student Monitor’s LIFESTYLE & MEDIA report found that student spending on course materials went from an average of $691 for the 2014-2015 academic year to $422 for the 2019-2020 school year, a decline of 39 percent over a six-year period. The 2019-2020 figure represents a 14 percent decline as compared to the average student spend of $492 during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Student Watch Survey

The most recent Student Watch survey indicated that course material spending dropped from $638 for the 2014-2015 academic year to $413 for the 2019-2020 academic year, a decline of 35 percent over the last six years. The latest figure represents a 0.5 percent decline as compared to the average student spend of $415 during the 2018-2019 academic year.


The 2020 Student Watch survey involved more than 14,000 students across 35 institutions.

The Student Monitor findings are the result of hour-long, one-on-one, on campus intercept interviews conducted among 1,202 four-year, full time undergraduates attending 93 representative colleges and universities.

“Numbers are going to differ in studies like these just based on general methodology,” Student Watch’s Conley said.  “What you really want to look at are things like overall trends in where the data’s going, what it looks like. And in the case of Student Watch and Student Monitor, we’re seeing the overall trends be consistent. Both of us are reporting a decline in course material spending, which is what you really want to look at when you’re comparing the two and seeing if they’re telling the same story.”


Education publishers understand that students struggle with the overall cost of college and have for years worked to lower the cost of the high-quality course materials they produce while creating increasingly innovative options to access. There is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ solution for college course materials that cover a vast diversity of subject areas, but some publishers have addressed affordability by launching online learning solutions such as Inclusive Access, which provide students with discounted materials on the first day of class. Other options, including subscription models, provide unlimited access to a range of textbooks, online homework access codes and study guides all for one price.

“Students have at least 10 different options or combination of options when it comes to deciding what textbooks or course materials they are going to acquire,” said Student Monitor’s Weil. “They can purchase a new printed textbook, a used printed textbook. They can rent a textbook instead of purchasing a printed textbook. They can acquire an e-Textbook for either limited or unlimited use. They can take advantage of one of these new subscription programs providing unlimited access to print and digital for either a single term or the entire academic year for a flat subscription price. From a student’s perspective, nothing could be more convenient than a subscription model that provides you everything that you need at a discounted price.”

“Inclusive Access is a new concept, a new system,” Weil continued.  “It offers a lot of promise, a lot of benefits to all concerned. From a student’s perspective, what happens is that the student receives all of their digital materials. They’re billed for those materials either through whatever financial aid they may be receiving or through their student account and the access to those materials are actually provided before the first day of class. This is really convenient, really adds to the value of the course from an instructors’ perspective. It’s just an exciting new approach that is more convenient for the student, saves money for the student, increases the value of their tuition dollar. It just makes perfect sense.”

Conley added, “We’re really just seeing a large number of things being offered in the course material space. They’re all playing a part in lowering that overall cost that students end up having to pay. If we’re talking about what’s prevalent among all course material options, rentals is something that we see more prevalent. This year, around 40 percent of students had rented at least one course material over the semester or academic term.”

Students continue to embrace a wide range of options for acquiring their course materials: according to the Student Monitor report, the $422 in average student spending during the 2019-2020 school year included  $174 for new, printed textbooks; $95 for used, printed textbooks; $67 for rented, printed textbooks; $39 for eTextbooks for unlimited use; and $24 for eTextbooks for limited time use.

Student Watch reports that during the 2019-2020 school year, students embraced a wide range of options, mixing print, digital, rental and purchase. 48 percent preferred some type of print book, while 21 percent of students preferred digital-only content. During the year, 80 percent of students purchased course materials during the year, and 44 percent rented course materials.

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AAP Contacts:

John McKay /

Cara Duckworth /

Mind The Gap Launches Solution to Gap Year with LIFE READY Program as Students Defer College Due to Impact of COVID-19

New York, New York – June 2020 – Mind The Gap, a team of educators, parents, students and researchers who believe education has a purpose, one that helps others find success in the real world — not just in school — has officially launched the Mind The Gap LIFE READY Program. At a time of uncertainty due to the impact of COVID-19, high school graduates and those who have already matriculated at colleges across the country are working to make sound decisions on how to best approach the upcoming start of the 2020 college calendar year, with many deferring college admission. And, currently, the higher education system presents challenges to youths who graduate into the workforce burdened by student debt, lacking workplace and life skills, and reporting high levels of mental health concerns. The LIFE READY Program is a 15-week semester, empowering an online learning community that was developed to provide a journey of self-discovery and fill gaps in traditional higher education by giving its participants skills to find success through dedicated experts and resources.

“This pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty for students who are clearly not going to be met with the full on-campus life experience; but yet, would still be paying the full price,” says Abby Brody, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Mind The Gap. “We created the LIFE READY Program to approach the concept of a Gap year in a novel way, and not as a traditional year “off,” but instead a step into the future, providing students with the skills that are not taught in school but are necessary for success in the real world. At the same time, LIFE READY will also allot time and provide tools for our ‘Fellows’ to dive into their personal development and life goals. As obvious as it seems today, this has never been done.”

Research shows students who take a Gap year are 60% more likely to take their academics more seriously and know what they want to study and thus they stick to their majors while reporting a higher sense of self-awareness and feel “more mature” than their peers. Remarkably, 75% note that their Gap year played a substantial role in their first job placement. “The Gap year market in the United States up until now has mostly served the wealthy who capitalize on this clear advantage. We are changing that. The research is clear, all students would benefit from this time.” says Abby.

The LIFE READY Program has been developed for those who have graduated high school in the last five years, and are looking to enrich their lives by investing in themselves. Our Fellows will be assigned a certified life coach through its MTG COACH program to receive personalized direction for their future path, and through the MTG LIFE HACKS curriculum they will learn a multitude of life skills currently not taught in school, such as digital organization and security, personal finance and the analysis of basic contracts. In addition, all Fellows will have the unique opportunity for career exploration through the MTG NEXT curriculum. LIFE READY graduates are confident, equipped, and ready to make their next move in the world — and they trust themselves.

The initial LIFE READY Program semester will begin on September 8, 2020 and run through December 18th, 2020. To start, the LIFE READY Program will accept 30 groups referred to as “Tribes,” each Tribe comprised of approximately 10 Fellows, designed to provide small-group and personalized development. The application process will officially open on Monday, June 8, 2020, and applicants can visit for further details on requirements and costs.

MTG’s LIFE READY Program will fill the void with an enriching semester that won’t break the bank and will ultimately help students feel more prepared to take on the real world,” adds Abby.

For more information on the LIFE READY Program and MTG’s efforts to help today’s students as they make future education decisions, visit

About Mind The Gap

Mind The Gap is a dedicated group of educators, parents, students, and researchers who believe education has a purpose, one that helps others find success in the real world — not just in school. Currently, the higher education system is underserving the country’s youth who are graduating into the workforce burdened by student debt, lacking workplace skills, and reporting higher levels of mental health concerns. Informed by the data sciences, the Mind The Gap team believes deeply in the “Gap” space. The research is clear. A “Gap” is an advantage and well-kept secret. Students who “Gap” prior to or during their higher education have a series of benefits that will serve as real-world differentiators. For more information on Mind The Gap, please visit

Cori Rice
Hill + Knowlton Strategies