May 25, 2022

Data: U.S. Students Using More Free Course Materials According to New College Stores Report

From the National Association of College Stores:

During the 2016-17 academic year, college students spent an average of $579 on 10 required course materials.

That’s down from $602 on 10 units the previous academic year, and $701 in 2007-08, according to Student Watch: Attitudes and Behaviors toward Course Materials: 2016-2017 Report, the National Association of College Stores’ (NACS) twice-yearly survey of college students in the U.S. and Canada.  Students also reported spending an additional $506 on technology and school supplies.

Other highlights from the report, which compiled responses from more than 20,000 college students, include:

  • Use of free materials is increasing: They’re borrowing, sharing, and downloading the materials needed for their classes. In spring 2017, 25% of students surveyed reported using a free method to obtain what they needed for class, up from 19% in spring 2016 and 15% in spring 2015.
  • Students are opting to rent more; campus store the primary source: Forty-three percent of students rented at least one course material in fall 2016 compared to 40% in fall 2015. And, 57% of students who rented a course material, did so through the campus store.
  • Campus store remains top source for course materials: In Fall 2016 students report that 82% of course materials were purchased from the campus store, 40% from Amazon, 8% from a peer/student, 7% from and 7% from a publisher website.
  • New print format is most purchased: In fall 2016, when purchasing course materials, 74% of students reported buying new print, 70% bought used print, and 23% bought digital. Purchasing of digital materials increased by 8%.

Direct to Complete Highlights Document (Incl. Four Visuals)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.