College Insights · Article

A Look at How Students Buy Course Materials

January 8, 2019

Course materials are necessary for student success. However, how can your college or university ensure student preparedness on your campus? With the growing cost of education and students struggling financially, it’s important to understand how cost, convenience, and experience factor into student buying habits and preferences when purchasing course materials.

How do students purchase course materials?

More than 1,800 students from two-year and four-year institutions were interviewed about their attitudes toward higher education for the Nielsen U.S. Student Attitudes Towards Content in Higher Education report. First-year students demonstrated a greater inclination to purchase all of their course materials from one place. Whether purchasing all of their materials at once or one at a time, the survey results show that they tend to utilize the same source. However, this trend decreases year-to-year. By the fourth year, students indicate a greater preference toward shopping for materials in multiple locations.

According to Cengage research, 86% of students spend hours searching for more affordable textbook options. However, the college store can simplify the entire course material purchasing experience for students. With options like cost-saving inclusive access programs, innovative and affordable courseware solutions, and convenient price-matching programs, stores can ensure your students have convenient on-campus access to the most affordable course materials.

When do students purchase course materials?

In the Nielsen survey, most students indicated they purchase their course materials before classes begin.

34% purchase materials more than a week before class
26% purchase materials the week before class
25% purchase within a day of classes starting
12% purchase a week after classes start
2% wait more than a week to purchase materials

However, a sizable portion of students reported that they delay purchasing their materials which can lead to poor student preparedness. Students who wait may encounter availability issues or fall behind in class — negatively impacting student success. According to research conducted by McGraw-Hill Education and Dr. Ryan Bake with the University of Pennsylvania, students who waited two weeks after classes started to obtain their course materials had substantially lower grades than those who acquired the textbook within a few days.

What is the student perception of course material fee programs?

The students surveyed by Nielsen were asked about their views on inclusive access programs. Over 70% of students said they would be willing to participate in a course material fee program, especially if it increased affordability. Students considered a fee ranging between $120 to $277 to be fair.

As with most student course materials decisions, affordability is the primary concern. If students feel like they could get the same materials from other sources for less, many of them will choose to do so. However, if students trust that they can find easily accessible and affordable course materials in their college store, then they will purchase their materials there.

From inclusive access to courseware, there are options your college store can provide that will help improve college affordability and student achievement on your campus.

Inclusive Access Course Material Solution

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