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Back-to-school costs increasing due in part to more technology

KEITH ARNOLD
Special to the Legal News

Published: July 30, 2019

Four weeks ahead of the start of the school year, Columbus-based Huntington Bank has released its index of the anticipated average costs of sending the kids to school.

The 13th annual Huntington Backpack Index, a barometer for household spending on school supplies and related fees, reports a significant increase in costs for American families with children attending elementary, middle and high school.

The additional expense, the survey found, can be attributed to the necessity of technology and connectivity.

Based on collaboration with national nonprofit Communities In Schools, which supports at-risk students in K-12 public schools, 62 percent of respondents reported that elementary school students are at least sometimes asked to submit assignments from home via connected devices.

The same figure jumped to 88 percent for middle school students and 94 percent for students attending high schools, the survey detailed.

Addressing the need for access to connected devices at home, the 2019 index added the cost of a basic laptop and home internet to the usual collection of classroom supplies and extracurricular fees. For the upcoming year, according to the index, parents can expect to pay per child:

• $1,017 for elementary school supplies, extracurricular fees and technology;

• $1,277 for middle school supplies, extracurricular fees and technology; and

• $1,668 for high school supplies, extracurricular fees and technology.

"For 13 years, the Huntington Backpack Index has provided a benchmark for American families to prepare for the real financial impact of sending their children to school," said Huntington Senior Executive Vice President and head of consumer and business banking Andy Harmening. "With changing demands on students to complete daily assignments on connected devices, we not only felt it important to revisit our methodology, but also to do our part in setting up our communities' students for success in the classroom."

The Backpack Index features an updated methodology to reflect the increased reliance on connected devices for completing school work, officials said.

Communities In Schools affiliates in 26 states and the District of Columbia were asked to identify items typically on supply lists for elementary, middle and high school students. Classroom supplies receiving at least 30 percent of the votes were included in the index.

Affiliates also were asked to estimate extracurricular fees and the use of technology to complete classroom assignments.

Costs of supplies and technology equipment are determined by selecting moderately priced items at national online retailers, according to a press release.

"All students, regardless of their family's income, should have the tools required to do their best work inside the classroom and at home," said Communities In Schools Chief Program and Innovation Officer Heather Clawson. "With resources stretched inside schools, teachers need nonprofits, members of the community and corporate partners to help bridge the school supply and technology gap."

Huntington Bank regularly donates refurbished electronics to organizations in need and is expected to donate 1,000 refurbished devices, including tablets, desktops, laptops, routers, servers and wireless access points, to Communities In Schools affiliates located within the bank's Midwest footprint.

The index has tracked classroom supply and school fee costs to highlight the burden of school expenses beyond assessed taxes since 2007.

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