Press Center > Study confirms costs lead students to forgo required learning materials; grades suffer as a result

September 19, 2017

Study confirms costs lead students to forgo required learning materials; grades suffer as a result


September 19, 2017

College students eager for more cost-effective digital learning solutions like Inclusive Access

Raleigh, N.C. (September 19, 2017) – A growing number of college students are choosing not to purchase textbooks and other required course materials in an effort to save money, according to a new study conducted by Wakefield Research on behalf of VitalSource Technologies LLC.

The study finds 85 percent of the college and university students surveyed have either waited to buy course materials until after the first day of class or opted not to purchase the materials altogether – up five percent from a similar survey conducted in 2016. Nearly all (91 percent) of the students surveyed cite cost as the reason for not buying their books, and half admit their grades suffered as a result.

“Course material affordability is one of the major items we have been focused on at the University of California, Davis,” said Jason Lorgan, Executive Director of Campus Recreation, Memorial Union and UC Davis Stores. “As costs have risen, we have seen course material cost become a significant barrier to student retention and completion. Students are increasingly finding work-arounds that are not working – like putting off buying materials or choosing not to buy course materials at all.”

“Academic performance may suffer as a result,” Lorgan added.

“With college costs on the rise and student outcomes lagging, offering more affordable options on critical course materials is just common sense,” said Pep Carrera, Chief Operating Officer of VitalSource®, a leading provider of digital learning materials. “In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the number of students who are forgoing course materials due to costs. This is alarming, but even more disturbing is the consequence this decision has on students’ grades.”

The study also confirms students’ interest in “inclusive access” programs as a solution to their textbooks and course material cost woes. Inclusive access rolls the cost of digital course materials into tuition, making it easier for students to automatically access critical learning materials at a more affordable price.

“The prevalence – and success – of digital inclusive access programs has increased significantly in recent years,” said Carrera. “The survey results mirror the anecdotal data we have collected from students about the value of digital course materials delivered through an inclusive access model.

“VitalSource now delivers affordable content to students at more than 3,000 higher education institutions that have embraced inclusive access programs. We know there is great opportunity for more colleges and universities across the country to take advantage of these programs as a way to lower costs, while also raising student success.”

The survey finds 78 percent of students whose schools do not currently offer inclusive access programs expressed interest in participating in such an initiative, as they feel the institution can negotiate the best price for materials. Beyond the cost savings, 88 percent of students surveyed feel they could earn better grades using digital, interactive course materials compared to traditional print materials.

“Digital textbooks are now used by approximately 17,000 UC Davis students per academic term,” said Lorgan. “Since we began our inclusive-access digital-textbook program in 2014, our students have saved nearly $7 million compared to the price of new print textbooks.”

The survey results in their entirety can be found on the VitalSource® website:


About VitalSource |

VitalSource Technologies LLC, part of Ingram Content Group LLC, is improving the learning experience by making it easier to create and deliver effective and affordable content. The preferred choice among educational institutions and companies for digital learning materials, VitalSource® helps over 1,000 educational content providers create and deliver seamless interactive learning experiences through its exclusive Bookshelf® platform to millions of learners at 7,000 institutions. Bookshelf users opened more than 20 million digital textbooks last year and read more than 2.4 billion pages.
Follow VitalSource on Twitter at @VitalSource.


Follow VitalSource on Twitter at @VitalSource.

Contact: Andy Cagle | 919.703.2828

Media Contact

Erin McCarthy, VitalSource