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  • Writer's pictureJeff Boron

The Cost of College - Books 101

Hello there students and families of WNY! Welcome back to the blog! As we inch closer to the deadline for the Young Achievers Scholarship (Wink Wink Deadline June 30th!) we wanted to take some time to talk a little bit about some of the costs of college. Oftentimes when considering the cost of college we look at tuition as the number one cost, and rightfully so. Other associative costs are oftentimes not mentioned when considering the cost of college. One big expense is BOOKS.

As time has gone on the cost of an average semester of books has gone down a bit, and e-books have made things a bit more affordable, but today on the blog we want to help parents and students better understand how much an average college student spends on books. Let's take a look!

How Much Do College Books Cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of books and supplies in 2020-2021 for first-year, full-time students was an estimated $1,000-$1,250, depending on where you go to school. Private for-profit colleges had a slightly lower average than public and private nonprofit colleges, which reported similar average costs.

Here is what the NCES found for 2020-2021.. for the cost of first-year, full-time undergrad students.

School Type

Average Cost

All Schools




Private Nonprofit


Private For-Profit


That Doesn't Mean It Will Cost That Much

Just because the average is roughly $1,200 doesn't necessarily mean your student will pay that much, but it should at least give you an idea of what to expect. Books are one aspect of this study, though technology and other course materials that are necessary to succeed are usually included in "books and supplies".

Digital Vs Paper

E-textbooks and other digital course materials have become much more popular over the years, especially after the remote era during the pandemic. In 2022, about half (52%) of students said they use digital course materials more often than before the pandemic. This could include PDF copies of books, and interactive textbooks that allow the student to highlight key materials.

One thing to consider with digital textbooks and materials is that they may not exactly save you money, as you can't buy a "used" digital book, and you can't exactly "share" digital materials or borrow them like you can with physical books.

How Do Students Pay for Textbooks?

The majority of students pay for textbooks with their own money. Roughly 64% of students pay for some or all of their course materials. 31% of students have some help from parents or others. 12% rely on student loans, and 30% use financial aid. The bottom line is you're going to need your textbooks and course materials to be successful in college. One way to help pay for your books is by applying for the WNY Young Achievers Scholarship, which awards 3 students from Erie, Niagara, or Genesee County with $1,000 to help pay for college. There are plenty of scholarships to apply for, so get applying and help save yourself a headache at the bookstore!


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