While this information varies based on factors such as course load and subject matter, students estimated spending an average of $579 on required course materials during the 2016-17 academic year (down $23 from the previous year), according to NACS’ Student Watch Attitudes & Behaviors toward Course Materials 2016-17 report. Required course materials can be any type of book or media required or recommended by faculty for classes. These could be new or used textbooks, regular or general books, as well as coursepacks, readers, customized materials or digital/electronic educational materials. This amount does not include the savings achieved by students selling their used textbooks, which further reduces net costs for most students.
Technology and educational supplies are an additional cost that may include computers, tablets, blue books, pens, paper, binders, highlighters and other necessary expenses. On average, educational supplies cost $506 for the 2016-17 academic year.
It is a common mis-perception that college stores make a large profit on textbooks. For new textbooks, college stores typically obtain the books they sell directly from publishers. Publishers establish the amount they charge college stores for each title. College stores then establish a retail price (the amount a student pays for the textbook). The difference between what the college store pays for the textbook and the amount they charge the student is called the gross margin. This gross margin is used to cover the personnel costs, the cost of freight, and other costs related to operating the store (utilities, rent, etc.) The average gross margin on new textbooks is currently 21.1%, according to NACS’ 2013 College Store Industry Financial Report. This margin has remained relatively constant since 1989.
After expenses have been paid, a college store makes less than 4 cents on every dollar’s worth of new textbooks sold. In most cases, the money that is made goes back to the institution and into student programs, such as financial aid, to help defray other costs of higher education.
In the case of used textbooks, the gross margin is higher because they require more handling and incur more operating expenses. They also present a higher risk to the store, because of the chance that a new edition of the textbook may make them obsolete.
It’s important to remember that college stores are not traditional retailers. They are unique in that they do not select the bulk of their inventory (textbooks); rather they procure the materials faculty select as appropriate for their classes. Also, because college stores are service driven, they attempt to provide the lowest possible prices for students as opposed to trying to make the largest profit.
The latest research from Student Watch™ fall 2013 indicates students purchase 47% of their required course materials either at the college store or through the college store’s web site.
Lower prices on college textbooks are available overseas because some U.S. publishers have sold these titles to wholesalers or retailers abroad at prices that are greatly reduced in comparison to those available to U.S. college stores and other U.S. retailers. The Internet has made it possible for foreign wholesalers and distributors to pass along lower prices on textbooks to U.S. consumers, placing them in direct competition with U.S. college stores. This adds to students’ distrust and frustration regarding U.S. college textbook prices.
Textbook Bundling FAQ
Bundles are packages that contain a textbook along with other course materials that may assist a student in their studies. These additional course materials may include such items as study guides, CD-ROMs, and access codes to textbook-companion web sites. Bundles are typically packaged and sold as a single unit.
College stores report that the use of bundles is increasing because a greater number of instructors are adopting (or requiring) bundles, or utilizing some of the components that are contained in a typical bundle.
When asked to rank the importance of factors when deciding to purchase required course materials, students ranked whether or not the textbook is packaged with additional items relatively low in the Student Watch™ fall 2013 report.
Students complain that bundles make course materials more expensive. This complaint is exacerbated when bundled materials are required, but not all of the materials in the bundle are used in the classroom. In addition, bundling makes the lost-cost renting of textbooks difficult.
Used Books FAQ
College stores sell used books as a service to students. The process of buying back and reselling used textbooks is one of the most direct ways for students to save on textbook expenses.
Yes. According to the Student Watch™ fall 2013 report, students ranked the ability to purchase used textbooks as the fourth most important factor when considering where to buy textbooks.
Because of student demand, used books accounted for $1.51 billion in college store sales during the 2011-12 academic year and made up 14.5% of U.S. college store total sales, according to NACS’ 2013 Industry Financial Report. Used textbooks made up 30% of all textbooks sold. Many stores believe that given students’ demand for used books, these percentages would be higher if more used books were available.
Used textbooks are typically priced at 75% of the retail price of the new book.
No. In 2005, the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the independent investigative research arm of Congress, investigated the rise of textbook pricing. The GAO concluded: “While many factors affect textbook pricing, the increasing costs associated with developing products designed to accompany textbooks, such as CD-ROMs and other instructional supplements, best explain price increases in recent years.”
College stores use a variety of methods to secure used books for students. One familiar strategy for obtaining used books is through buyback events, where books are purchased from students for resale. College stores also work with textbook wholesale companies to secure additional copies of used books, or books that may not have been available during their campus’ buyback.
Textbook Rental FAQ
According to a NACS OnCampus Research survey and company reports, 80.6% of the association’s nearly 3,000 member stores offer textbook rental programs of some kind, up from only 300 or so in the fall of 2009. The initial growth was sparked by student demand, campus stores wishing to provide more options to students, and governmental encouragement through federal grants. Continued growth has been spurred by myriad program models, partners, and solutions emerging in the last several years.
While most campuses start out providing a hybrid rental program in which only a limited number of titles are available for rent, often for entry-level courses, the number of titles being made available for rent is increasing each semester/quarter.
On our website, books available for rent will show a rental price directly below the new and used prices. In the store, books available for rent will have a line on the shelf tag that reads “Rent this book for…..”
You may pay for your rental book using any payment method currently accepted by the College Store (include financial aid). At the time of the rental, however, you will need to present a “securing credit card”. This card information will be securely stored by our system (following acceptable PCI standards) and will only be used at the end of the semester in the event that your rented textbook is not returned by the deadline in acceptable condition. This securing credit card cannot be a debit-only or gift card and the expiration date must extend beyond the rental return deadline.
Rented textbooks must be returned to the College Store NO LATER THAN close of business on the date printed on your receipt. Check the Refund and Exchange Policy for exact deadlines for your semester.
You can highlight and write in your rented textbook.
No, DO NOT bring your rented textbook to the buy-back table. You should always return it to the store cashier and make sure that you are given a receipt that shows the return.
The “securing credit card” or HCC student account will be charged the current new price of the textbook PLUS a $10 processing fee. Please keep in mind that if your HCC student account is charged, all future transactions with Harford Community College will be denied until the outstanding debt has been paid.
The initial rental fee is subject to the course material refund and exchange deadlines detailed in the College Store's published Refund and Exchange Policy.
Bring your textbook to the College Store any time prior to the return deadline and we will refund the initial rental fee and apply it towards the purchase of your textbook. You will be charged the price that was in effect when you originally rented your textbook.