There has been a fair amount of discussion around my post two days ago about what US postsecondary students actually pay for textbooks.
The shortest answer is that US college students spend an average of $600 per year on textbooks despite rising retail prices.
I would not use College Board as a source on this subject, as they do not collect their own data on textbook pricing or expenditures, and they only use budget estimates.
<wonk> I argued that the two best sources for rising average textbook price are the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Association of College Stores (NACS), and when you look at what students actually pay (including rental, non-consumption, etc) the best sources are NACS and Student Monitor. In this post I’ll share more information on the data sources and their methodologies. The purpose is to help people understand what these sources tell us and what they don’t tell us.
College Board and NPSAS
My going-in- argument was that the College Board is not a credible source on what students actually pay:
The College Board is working to help people estimate the total cost of attendance; they are not providing actual source data on textbook costs, nor do they even claim to do so. Reporters and advocates just fail to read the footnotes.
Both the College Board and National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS, official data for the National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES) currently use cost of attendance data created by financial aid offices of each institution, using the category “Books and Supplies”. There is no precise guidance from DOE on the definition of this category, and financial aid offices use very idiosyncratic methods for this budget estimate. Some schools like to maximize the amount of financial aid available to students, so there is motivation to keep this category artificially high. Continue reading