Recent studies show students are buying fewer textbooks, but it's not just because of the cost.
The latest survey from the National Association of College Stores shows that college undergrads are spending less on their course materials. That's not all bad news: the study shows the $75-per-year average spending decrease is due in part to cost-saving initiatives like rental, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. But the numbers show another concerning trend: of students who did not buy their course materials, an increasing percentage of students — up from 13 percent last year — say it's because they believe their books are "unnecessary."
The Chronicle story cites a Book Industry Study Group survey corraborating those results, while a separate survey of professors from the same campuses show the opposite opinion.
The professors have the right idea. We know that having the course materials students need on hand at the beginning of term has a positive impact on learning outcomes. The Spring 2014 Student WatchTM OnCampus Research® shows that more than half of all students found their course materials to be "very" or "extremely" useful.
So how can schools continue to encourage students to obtain their titles so they can be as successful as possible?
For students who already see the value of acquiring their course materials, they will seek out the best value possible. As the article noted, rental has made a notable impact in how students can save. Improving your selection of digital titles can also save students up to 80 percent off the list price of a new print title, if students are interested in using eBooks.
You have tools to reach the growing number of students who are considering their books "optional" as well. If your faculty like to adopt older editions of course materials or offer a range of supplemental items like chapter summaries and outside resources, then they may be interested in a custom course pack.
By bundling all of these materials together in one place, your students can rest assured everything in their "book" for that class was hand-picked by their professor, and you can potentially save them money over the cost of a textbook and a bunch of associated individual supplements.