Cost of School Supplies Could Hit Families Hard This School Year, Survey Finds

By Tiara Beatty — July 29, 2015 2 min read
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The rising cost of school supplies for the 2015-16 school year is expected to heavily affect low-income families, according to the latest Backpack Index by Huntington Bank.

Huntington Bank released its annual Backpack Index on July 29, which shows significant increases, in particular, for high school student supplies and fees.

According to Huntington Bank, parents can expect to pay:

• $649 for elementary school children, a 1 percent increase compared to 2014

• $941 for middle school children, a 2.5 percent jump compared to 2014

• $1,402 for high school students, a 9 percent increase compared to 2014

If parents have a child in elementary, middle, and high school, these costs would total to $2,992.

More than half (51 percent) of public school students come from low-income families, according to The Southern Education Foundation’s research bulletin “A New Majority.”

Considering the federal poverty level for a family of five sits at $28,410 per year, the cost of school supplies would account for about 10 percent of that income. That cost jumps to 12 percent for a single parent of three children earning at the poverty level of $24,250.

Supply and activity costs have “increased 85 percent for elementary school students, 78 percent for middle school students, and 57 percent for high school students,” since the first Backpack Index in 2007, according to a press release.

Huntington Bank equates the rise in high school costs to college preparation. College prep supplies and tests add an additional $298.93 onto high school costs. However, this only includes one Advanced Placement test. If students choose to take more than one test, the cost of each additional Advanced Placement test is $91.

In addition, extra-curricular activities are more expensive for high school students. Sports participation fees in middle school are $125. In high school, they become pay-to-play fees costing parents $200, on average.

Communities In Schools (CIS), a national dropout prevention organization, is working with Huntington Bank to spread the information to their affiliates, media, teachers, and to anyone who can donate supplies for students.

CIS Vice President of Communications Steve Majors said it’s important for people to know “some of those students might need a little extra help being ready on the first day of school.”

CIS predicts these rising costs are going to create more difficulties for low-income families when buying their children supplies to learn.

To help families avoid the blow, CIS has tips to offset costs. CIS recommends reusing supplies, comparing prices, and looking for donations.

“We work closely with and in public schools and see that many students cannot afford a backpack or the list of supplies they need to learn,” said CIS President Dan Cardinali, in the release. “While teachers and many school districts do what they can to help students obtain supplies, we need to do more.”

The bank conducts its research in six of the states that they occupy: Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. From these states, they acquire required supply lists and activity fees. Huntington Bank selects “moderately priced items” from online retailers to determine the costs.

CIS holds school supply drives and partners with businesses to collect donations for students vulnerable to dropping out.

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.