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Report: College Stores Are Overcharging for Laptops

Dan Tynan

Memo to parents of college freshmen: If you’re planning to buy a new laptop or tablet for your young scholar, steer a wide path around the campus bookstore.

Report: College Stores Are Overcharging for Laptops(Thinkstock)

People who are already paying through the nose, ears, eyes, and every other orifice for tuition may also end up dropping up to 35 percent more for electronics if they buy them on campus, according to a report by DealNews, a shopping site for bargain hunters.

DealNews shopped at the online stores for the top five public universities, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, and one private university. Overall, nearly 70 percent of the products DealNews looked at were priced higher on campus than off. In part, that’s because retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and the Microsoft Store will offer special discounts to students that the college stores do not, says DealNews’ Louis Ramirez.

For example, an HP touchscreen laptop that sold for $229 at the Microsoft Store lists for $319 at the student store for my alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley (go Bears). A 16 GB iPad mini that costs $299 at the University of Virginia’s store was available for $199 earlier this summer from Walmart.

Campus stores are also a more expensive place to buy other electronics such as phone docks, hard drives, and headphones, Ramirez adds. For example, a pair of 50 Cent headphones that costs $130 at Amazon can run you $50 more on campus.

Websites showing different prices for 50 Cent headphonesYou’ll get a much better deal on earware at Amazon than at UC Berkeley. On the other hand, Cal has won a lot more Nobel Prizes.

If you do decide to shop at the old school store, make sure it’s passing along the student discounts offered each year by Apple. Campus stores that linked directly to the Apple Education Store were 44 percent cheaper on average than stores that didn’t.

Avoiding the campus store is a smart idea when shopping for virtually anything available elsewhere. Keep in mind, though, that DealNews was comparing college store costs to the best deals it could find this summer, some of which were no longer available at press time.

“The main point we’re making is to do your comparison shopping,” Ramirez wrote in an email. “Some campuses might bundle extended warranties or special software with their computers, and that’s great, but always ask what you’re getting before you buy. If a price feels high, shop elsewhere.”

Questions, complaints, kudos? Email Dan Tynan at ModFamily1@yahoo.com.