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Just released data shows decreased course materials spending and strong campus store market share

The Student WatchTM Spring 2015 Study – an industry-leading, twice-yearly survey of 10,000 higher education students – has revealed some exciting trends in students’ attitudes and behaviors about course materials.

The campus store remains the leader in market share in both dollars and units of course materials purchases. Students cite convenience and a knowledgeable staff as two of the primary reasons for shopping on campus.

The other big news is that spending on course materials is down, with an average annual spend of $563 compared with $701 five years ago. Many factors have contributed to the decline, including more competitive pricing, greater attention by faculty to course materials requirements, rental and used book programs, Open Educational Resources, and the addition of electronic formats.

At the same time, it’s important to note that the quantity of course materials has remained about the same, which reflects a true decrease in prices rather than a decrease in the number of textbooks purchased. In fact, 70% of students report that they acquire all their required materials; only 3% don’t acquire any at all.

The Student Watch Study reflects the attitudes and behaviors of 10,000 college and university students from two- and four-year institutions. Student watch is a product of OnCampus Research and funded by the NACS Foundation.


Price comparison software has changed the game for students, making it far easier for apples-to-apples comparisons of needed coursework through their campus store’s own website. Interestingly, research from industry leader Verba indicates that when students compare prices on course materials, the campus store ends up winning the business about 78% of the time.

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Market Share for Course Materials Purchases–Units

The Campus Store is #1 in Course Materials Market Share: The campus bookstore is the top course materials retailer in both unit and dollar sales. The campus store also maintains the lion's share of the rentals market, with about 50% of that business.

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Market Share for Course Materials Purchases–Dollars

The Campus Store is #1 in Course Materials Market Share: Students cite convenience and knowledgeable staff as primary reasons for choosing the campus store.

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Average Annual Spending on Required Course Materials

Student Spending on Course Materials Continues to Decline: Campus stores have done their part in reducing student costs through widespread implementation of used books, rentals programs, and availability of alternative formats to impact the steady decline in student spending.

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Course Materials Purchased and Rented

Number of Units Purchased has Remained the Same: While students spending on course materials has declined, the number of units being acquired has remained consistent. This is a true reflection of a decrease in prices.

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Students Acquiring Course Materials

Most Students Acquire All Their Materials: Nearly 70% of students do acquire all of their required course materials. Of those who do not, the primary reason is not the price of the material, but the fact that they weren't deemed necessary to their academic success in the course.

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Source Preference for Course Materials

Students Prefer the Campus Store: If prices were all equal, 66% of students would prefer to shop either in-store or online through the campus store.