Paying for college is stressful enough. But the cost of college textbooks have students feeling anxiety over affordability that sticks around long after tuition has been paid for.
That’s because aside from tuition, books and other course materials weigh heavily on college students, according to a survey from education and technology company Cengage. Forty percent of students skip meals to make sure they can pay for textbooks.
Eighty-seven percent feel the cost of college textbooks and other course materials are overpriced. This is minorly different than tuition — 86 percent feel it’s overpriced.
Textbook affordability is tougher for minorities and women
Most college students in the poll admit that the cost of college textbooks are high. But some groups feel the burden more than others. Here’s a look at the groups of students struggling the hardest…
- Black students admit they didn’t buy course materials: 60 percent
- Hispanic students opt out of required textbooks: 64 percent
- Women use financial aid to pay for textbooks and course materials: 76 percent (compared to only 10 percent of men)
Despite finding course materials too expensive, many students believe access to materials in alternative forms is beneficial to their success. Eighty-one percent of students say having easily accessible digital course materials will help them earn better grades.
The cost of college textbooks is dropping
Believe it or not, another study finds that textbook prices have gone down in the last year — but not by much.
From January 2017 to January 2018, the average cost of college textbooks dropped $10, according to CampusBooks.com. Before this, the average cost of college textbooks rose four times in 10 years.
The site tracks the cost of 8 million textbooks. Alex Neal, CEO of CampusBooks, says the drop in price might come from the use of alternative textbook formats.
“The sign of college textbook decreasing runs counter to the 20-year narrative of staggering price increases,” Neal says. “Students may be completely digital these days — growing up on tablets and smartphones — but when it comes to the college classroom, hardback books still represent the best value and learning tool.”
The CampusBooks study also concludes that eBook sales have increased by 37 percent in the last two years but only account for 2 percent of textbook sales. New and used books are still the most popular purchases.
Renting books has increased in popularity but if you normally sell your books back at the end of the semester, renting won’t help you pocket extra cash.
Parents don’t think their kids will graduate college
The number of parents who are confident their kid will graduate dropped from 55 percent in 2017 to 50 percent in 2018, according to a survey from Allianz Tuition Insurance. But 46 percent of students believe they will complete their degree within four years.
The survey also shows that neither parents nor students know or understand their college’s tuition refund policy. This could have huge financial implications in case an emergency comes up.
“Eight in 10 parents and students say that financial repercussions of withdrawing could be severe, with an expected loss to be about $10,000,” the survey says. “Further, 80 percent of parents and 84 percent of students admit they’d be worried making student loan payments in the event of a withdrawal.”
Since families are unsure of what happens to their financial aid in case they have to leave school, the added burden of their ignorance could end up costing them in the long run.
More families turn to private student loans
As parents and students are unsure about their finances in case of dropping out, a different study found that families are securing last-minute funding for college through private student loans.
Student loan marketplace Credible.com says average loan balances in undergrads is up 14 percent compared to this time last year.
Part of this might be that families are unsure of how to get other means of college financing. Parents may not know how to secure free money from grants and scholarships or how to get federal student loans. Turning to private loans is a quick and easy alternative. Be warned: it’s also expensive.
Interest rates on private student loans are generally higher than federal loans. Some borrowers may end up paying back private student loans while still enrolled in school or right after graduation. However, that does depend on the lender. Students start paying back federal student loans six months after graduation.
Credible says that the annual cost of attending a public, four-year university has increased 33 percent in the last decade. However, Congress hasn’t raised borrowing limits on student loans. Because of this, it’s understandable that private student loan borrowing has gone up.
Originally published at www.debt.com on September 25, 2018.