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Survey: Expect Higher Back-to-School Prices

Huntington Backpack Index says parents will pay as much as 6 percent more for supplies for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade this year.

Back-to-school costs for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade are expected to increase by as much as 6 percent this year, according to the 2012 Huntington Backpack Index released Wednesday by Huntington Bank.

The annual survey cited small hikes in the cost of common supplies, as well as significant instrument rental fee increases, as factors in the added burden on family budgets. The findings include the following:

  • Elementary school costs per student rose 3.4 percent, from $530 to $548.
  • Middle school costs per student rose 5.8 percent, from $684 to $724.
  • High school costs per student rose 2.2 percent, from $1,093 to $1,117.

The index is based on school supply lists collected in the six states where Huntington Bank operates – Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky – and the cost of those supplies at major online retailers such as Staples and OfficeMax.

A substantial increase in typical musical instrument rental fees, from $299 in 2011 to $345 in 2012, also was cited in the survey. However, customers at in Berkley won't see such an increase, owner Dan McCourt said.

"Our rates haven't gone up in several years and they won't be going up this year, specifically so it doesn't become 'the times are tough we have to raise prices' kind of thing," he said.

McCourt said his shop provides all-inclusive equipment rental that includes strings, insurance and maintenance for students, who are required to participate in band, orchestra or choir when they enter fifth grade.

"It is an expense (parents) need to incur, so we want to make sure it's an easy expense," he said.

The 2011 Huntington Backpack Index found costs increased by up to 25 percent from 2010, reflecting increased or new pay-to-play fees for sports teams and other extracurricular activities.

Huntington Bank offered the following tips to help parents get a handle on their back-to-school budgets:

  • Check with your local school districts to find out what supply needs you might help support.
  • Assess your charitable network for opportunities to support students with classroom and extracurricular supplies.
  • If you have a musical instrument or instruments unlikely to ever be used again in your household, consider donating it to a local school music program or arts education nonprofit. Or loan it out personally to a student you know.
  • If you have outgrown sports equipment in storage, check with a local school team to see if they can use it.
  • Consider joining or forming a “booster” organization for a local school extracurricular organization, even if you don’t have school-age children participating.
  • Because “booster” nonprofits supporting school group activities are independent from the school system, make a financial donation if you have the means and interest to do so.
  • Look within your workplace for corporate fund-raising opportunities that can benefit your local school programs.

"Too often, families don’t have a complete picture of the costs to prepare their children both for the classroom and for participation in the many extracurricular activities that interest them," said Mary Navarro, Huntington Bank senior executive vice president, retail and business banking director. "Costs did increase again this year so families will need to make smart budgeting choices together."

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