Are Textbooks Too Expensive? Survey Says Yes

The second-biggest financial stressor for college students, right after paying for tuition, is buying the source materials they need for their classes, according to a Morning Consult survey which was done at the request of Cengage. Cengage is a company that offers course materials like study guides, homework sheets, and textbooks to millions of students throughout the country. The survey was comprised of information from 1,651 former and current college students, ages 18 to 30.

In the survey, 85 percent of students said paying for course materials, including the textbooks for their classes, is stressful financially. Only 73 percent of students said that paying for student housing was stressful. That figure was even lower for healthcare at 69 percent and meals and food at 63 percent.

While all the categories mentioned can be expensive, a large number of students, at 87 percent, felt textbooks and course materials were overpriced and not worth the money. A similar number of students, at 86 percent, believed their college tuition was overpriced.

The students reported they had to make sacrifices to help pay for their course materials. Four in 10 students said they missed meals to save extra money to chip at the cost of the materials. Two in 10 students said they even changed the major they pursued just to cut down on the cost of what they needed.

Meanwhile, three in 10 students said they took fewer classes than they would have otherwise taken on, just to save some of the costs. Three in 10 students skipped certain courses entirely just to avoid the large textbook cost associated with that class. Furthermore, one out of three students took fewer trips home to see family and friends so they could afford their textbooks.

Students reported doing what they could to find the least expensive options when it came to course materials. Of those surveyed, 86 percent said they dedicated at least a few hours or even up to a week of their time looking for more affordable options where they could buy their course materials.

Women, in particular, were more stressed about finding the money to pay for course materials. Of those surveyed, 60 percent of women reported feeling the financial strain compared to 48 percent of men.

Because of the extra strain they feel, 64 percent of women have bought non-current textbooks while 57 percent of men have. And 47 percent of women have taken out loans to pay for textbooks, while 38 percent of men have.

Of Hispanics surveyed, 64 percent decided to skip purchasing the textbooks or course materials that are needed for a class because of the prohibitive cost of them. That puts students at a disadvantage from the first day of class and can have a huge impact on the final grade and comprehension of the subject material. If the class in question is taken as part of a student’s major, it can have an ill effect on future coursework that builds off of that class as well.

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