College Students: Buying Course Materials a Top Source of Financial Stress

Image credit: USA Today

This post originally appeared on the Cengage website. You can read the original here.


College students consider buying course materials to be their top source of financial stress after tuition, and the lack of access and affordability of materials has a negative impact on their learning and performance, according to a new survey of 1,651 current and former college students.  The survey was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of Cengage.  The largest US-based education and technology company serving the higher education market, Cengage provides course materials including textbooks, ebooks, homework and study guides to 11 million students.

The survey, Today’s Learner: Student Views 2018, also shows that students routinely sacrifice basic needs, such as food and spending time with their family, to afford their course materials.  Other key findings include:

  • Textbook Purchases Increase Student Stress: Eighty-five percent of current and former students say that their textbook and course material expenses are financially stressful, more so than meals and food (63 percent), healthcare (69 percent), housing (73 percent) and barely less stressful than tuition (88 percent).
  • Students Sacrifice Food for Textbooks: Nearly half of current and former college students (43 percent) say they’ve saved money by skipping meals to afford course materials.
  • Minority Students Are Disproportionally Impacted: Minority students are more likely to report taking fewer classes to save on textbook costs; African American students are also 35 percent more likely to save money for books by skipping a trip home.
  • Coping with the Financial Burden: Almost seven in 10 students report having to get a job during the school year to pay for college textbooks; 43 percent have taken out a loan; and 31 percent have taken fewer classes to save on textbooks costs.
  • Digital Access Drives Success: Digital is seen as a potential way to help with course materials, with 81 percent of students saying easily accessible digital course materials would have a positive impact on their grades. When it comes to digital access, cost and affordability remain key: 72 percent of students saying cost-effectiveness is very important when considering digital course materials.

“The survey’s results should be a wake-up call for everybody involved in higher education. This is especially true for the publishing industry, including our own company, as we historically contributed to the problem of college affordability,” said Michael Hansen, CEO, Cengage. “The data is clear: high textbook costs pose barriers to students’ ability to succeed in college.  Too many learners today are making painful tradeoffs between course materials and bare necessities like housing and meals. Our industry must embrace what students are telling us. That’s why our company has developed a new subscription model that lowers costs.”

View the survey results infographic here