Huntington Bank says the cost to send an elementary student to school has nearly doubled over the past eight years, with the average cost of supplies and fees now exceeding $600 a year.
The Columbus-based bank this week released its annual “backpack index,” which attempts to give parents a guideline of what it costs to send their elementary, middle, and high schoolers back to class.
“We want to help families to financially prepare for the school year,” said Lynn Eicher, Huntington’s vice president of regional marketing for northwest Ohio. “We recommend parents use this index to teach their students how to save, budget, and comparison shop.”
To someone without school-age children — and perhaps even to some with children — the dollar amounts might seem awfully high.
Huntington said, on average, it costs $642 to outfit an elementary school student. The bank said parents can expect to spend $918 on their middle schooler, while a high school student needs a whopping $1,284 to get ready for class.
Those figures make some assumptions that drive up the costs. For example, in middle school, Junior plays a sport ($125 for participation fees) and is a member of the band ($345 to rent an instrument for a year).
Huntington officials say the survey provides a real-world example of what schools require and what it costs. The bank gathers classroom-supply lists from 30 schools across its six-state market area, and picks moderately priced items at online retailers.
Average costs have been trending upward since Huntington’s first survey, and again rose this year.
The biggest increase was for middle-school students. Huntington said costs rose 20 percent. One of the primary reasons was that more schools are requiring middle schoolers to have graphing calculators.
The average cost for high-school students rose 5 percent, while the average cost for elementary school students was up 11 percent.
Huntington said hikes for standardized testing fees, field trips, and pay-to-play were to blame for most of those increases.
Ms. Eicher said she’s seen the rising costs first-hand.
“It got more and more expensive as time went on,” she said. “If you look at the extra-curricular fees and college prep, this is just showing one time taking the SAT or ACT and one time taking the AP test. I had a daughter who took three AP tests.”
The National Retail Federation, meanwhile, reports that its survey found Americans plan to spend an average of $640 to send their K-12 student back to school. That’s a modest 5 percent increase from last year.