College Costs
Last updated: October 5th, 2022

Textbooks and Supplies Explained

How to manage textbook and supply expenses

When you add a college to DecidED for the first time, the cost of textbooks and supplies are estimated based on a prior school year. 

  • The amount you will need to pay for textbooks and supplies is added to your tuition and fees, room and board, and other expenses to give you your total cost of attendance.

Different colleges have different expenses 

  • College faculty assign textbooks as either optional or required reading for a course. Depending on your major, program, and course load, your textbook expenses will vary.
  • When buying textbooks, students have the option to buy new, used, or rent either a printed or electronic version, if available. 
  • Supplies refer to the tools, physical and virtual, that college students need to manage their coursework. 
    • Physical supplies include, but may not be limited to, book bags, notebooks, pens and pencils, paper and computer paper, printers, mobile, etc.
    • Virtual supplies can include, but may not be limited to, computer software, online apps and subscriptions, etc.

What to look for in your financial aid letter

  • Books and supplies are often listed to all registered students as one expense.
  • You may also see “other books, supplies” as an additional expense. Additionally, textbook rentals may be included in the tuition and fees expense.
  • Your award letter may have a footnote or section that explains what is included in the books and supplies expense. For example, there may be a breakdown for educational supplies, course material fees, and computer-related expenses.

Tip: If your actual expenses are significantly higher than what is listed on your financial aid award, you may be able to request an adjustment to your estimated budget. Contact your financial aid office to see if they can adjust your budget and increase your financial aid eligibility.

Check out these guides for more information on Understanding College Bill and Life Budget Expenses.

How to save money on textbooks

Many students don’t realize that buying brand new textbooks isn’t their only option. Here are a few options to decrease your textbook expense.

  • Consider buying or renting digital and print versions of textbooks from a retailer like Chegg instead of buying new hard copies. 
  • Consider looking for older or used versions of textbooks.
  • Find the textbook on your campus’ online library, if available.
  • Plan to sell your books at the end of the semester or year, to get some of your money back.
  • Many organizations offer scholarships specifically for textbook purchase or rental each year. There are textbook scholarships available for students from various backgrounds, parts of the country, or who are pursuing specific majors, so do some research to find which options align with you.