Don't Buy Your College Kid a Laptop at the Campus Store

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group of students working on...
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College today is horrendously expensive. Beyond tuition bills that look like significant percentages of the national debt, and room-and-board costs that make you wonder if the school is housing your child in the Ritz-Carlton, pricey textbooks and laptops are a near universal requirement.

The school store will be happy to sell these laptops. But data collected by DealNews.com suggest you probably want to resist: You could be paying far more than the usual retail price for your hardware -- upwards of 35 percent more.

DealNews looked at the computer prices in the school stores of U.S. News & World Report's five top-ranking public universities and one of the top private universities. (Private universities are often finicky about letting non-students into their online stores, so there were fewer options.) The site then compared the most and least expensive laptops as well as the cheapest tablet to similar configurations in back-to-school deals available from retailers.

Better Deals at Walmart, Target

On the average, campus prices were 35 percent higher than those offered by retail stores. Most of the equipment at the schools also seemed to be sold as is, without additional software or tech support. When DailyFinance asked, a DealNews representative confirmed that the site took into account all the installed software when comparing prices. For example, the University of Virginia sold a first-generation iPad with 16GB of RAM for $299. That was $100 more than Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT) charged in their summer deals.

Some schools had reasonably priced equipment. But 68 percent of the time, families would have been better off buying the gear off-campus. Even when there are educational discounts, like with Apple (AAPL) equipment, major stores were sometimes less expensive by up to $50.

That said, there are a few situations when the lower price you could get from an off-campus retailer might not be such a smart deal.
  • Specialized software. Some software, like in areas of engineering, may be free. Others could require specific commercial packages. For example, if your kid is studying photography, design or art, Adobe (ADBE) software could be required. Check to see if you can get the same software deal as the school does. If not, you might find that the lower software prices more than make up the cost difference of the hardware.
  • Maintenance. Laptops can take a beating. Does the school include a full maintenance plan? You don't want your student stuck with an expensive brick and no option for fixing it. Plus, you might also need to install various applications and utilities. The time and irritation alone, particularly when things are pressed as you send the scholar on his or her way, might be worth the extra money. If you worry that you'll buy the wrong thing, purchases at the school store can reduce your stress.
  • Financing. The school might provide financing that is significantly cheaper than what you might have available to you via a credit card.
But chances are good that you won't have to give up anything to keep some extra green in the wallet. And you know the kid will be calling soon enough asking if you can spare any cash.


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17 Comments

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ezspin42

Make the helpless sponge buy it himself

August 21 2014 at 8:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
demsgo2heii

Thats common sense but Obama lovers will buy theirs at the campus stores since they lack sense.

August 21 2014 at 7:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dickn2000b

And yet another Duuuuuhhhh, YA THINK?... story from the AOL/Fluffpost Flakes.

August 21 2014 at 1:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bentbouy1

Everyone knows campus stores are wayyy over priced and dont buy there unless you have to.

August 21 2014 at 11:58 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
gee.effwye

You mean convenience has a price? Whodathunkit.

August 20 2014 at 8:50 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
CPA11973

why is it news that campus bookstores are overpriced. this has been true for at least the last 5 decadess

August 20 2014 at 8:01 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Sekinu2

If your dumb enough to be buying an ipad or mac for school then you shouldnt be going to college just remedial school lol.. I will make an exception for art and music students.

August 20 2014 at 7:29 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
drpmindmender

Robert Smith
drpDUHder...........mac2someydarrendunce........very simple.
=======================================================================

It is VERY simple, Drunk - Just like your repeatedly useless, meaningless, and incomprehensible drivel and existence.

August 20 2014 at 4:08 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to drpmindmender's comment
alfrankenfool

Mindbender, talk about useless drivel. Just look at your own.

August 20 2014 at 5:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to alfrankenfool's comment
drpmindmender

I am looking, and all I see is you attempting to defend Drunk's indefensible comments with your own, useless attempt to deflect mine...

...Birds of a feather... .

August 20 2014 at 10:24 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down
sktn77a

A very misleading article. The majority of colleges and universities have negotiated good discounts of 30% to 50% with manufacturers (except, of course, Apple). Sure, you might be able to get an item on sale at a big box store but, again, most colleges and universities DO have technical support, extended warranties and commercial software included at that price.

Remember the old adage "the information you get on the internet is worth precisely what you pay for it"!

August 20 2014 at 12:02 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sktn77a's comment
sadiemae1214

You are so wrong about that. Recently, a college student I know, purchased a laptop thru the college and he paid more than $200 over what other stores were charging for the same thing that included the hardware and warranty AND, he found out, after setting it up, that it was used! It actually had porn on it! The college refused to exchange it.

August 21 2014 at 10:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fibroidphia1

Oh my god, what is wrong with you people?

August 20 2014 at 11:46 AM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to fibroidphia1's comment
drpmindmender

It's really quite simple...

...Jack, democrap2, and progressivehoax all were denied admission to the Rocco Women's School of Typewriter Repair, and they've held a grudge against institutions of "higher learning" ever since.

August 20 2014 at 12:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to drpmindmender's comment
democrap2

You sir are a dolt.

August 20 2014 at 4:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
democrap2

Nothing. Next

August 20 2014 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply