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Back-to-college affected by poor economy


WASHINGTON College-bound students and their families are prepared to shell out a little extra this year. NRF’s back-to-college survey found that college students and their parents will spend an average of $618.12 this year, up 3% over last year’s $599.38. With fewer people planning to attend college this fall, total college spending is expected to decrease to $30.08 billion. While the number of undergraduates is not expected to significantly change, the amount of people who say they will participate in an advanced degree program is expected to drop this year.

“The economy is forcing young adults to make hard decisions about which schools to attend, where to live and what’s really a “necessity” for college,” said Tracy Mullin, president and CEO of NRF. “This year, college students are just as focused as their parents on finding good deals and making smart choices with their money.”

83% of Americans with students already in or planning to attend college say they the economy is impacting back-to-college plans. Back-to-college buyers say the economy will cause them to spend less overall, shop for sales more often and comparative shop with ad circulars/newspapers. The economy will also cause some students to make do with last year’s school items, share or borrow textbooks instead of buying new ones and will impact students’ choice of college.

In addition, 12.8% of survey respondents say the economy will impact where a student lives, with many choosing to save money by living at home. Nearly three out of five college students will be living at home this year, compared to 54.1% last year and 49.1% in 2007. Fewer students will live in a dorm room or college house and in off campus apartments or homes.

“Parents want to give their children everything necessary for the best education, but, this year, living at home may need to be a concession students need to make,” said Phil Rist, executive VP, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. “The trend of students living with their parents will disproportionately impact home furnishings retailers, as fewer people may be purchasing kitchen items, home decor and furniture.”

Families of college students will heavily increase their dependence on drug stores this year. 23.4% of back-to-college buyers will shop at drug stores, a 38% increase from last year’s 14.3%. Back-to-college shoppers will purchase from discounters, college bookstores, department stores and office supply stores most frequently.

Families of freshmen will spend the most on back-to-college purchases. Sophomores will spend the second-highest amount, followed by juniors, then seniors. College students and their families will spend an average of $118.56 on apparel, $57.85 on shoes, $34.52 on collegiate gear, $61.05 on school supplies and $80.06 on dorm or apartment furniture. Spending on electronics or computer-related items is increasing for students as laptops become a requirement for many colleges and universities across the country.

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