Don’t Let Your Kid Buy Laptop Or Tablet At College Store, Unless You’re OK With Paying 35% More

When I was in college, a new computer cost about as much as a used car and it often involved a family trip to the mall with parents who tried to haggle over the price tag. But now that you can get a decent laptop or tablet for a few hundred dollars, parents may be tempted to tell their college-enrolled kids to just pick one up through the school’s store. That could be a costly mistake.

The folks at DealNews looked at prices for laptops and tablets at online stores for a handful of the country’s top-ranked colleges (including the greatest school to ever allow me to graduate), and found that 68% of the time you’ll do better by shopping elsewhere.

The average price difference was 35%, but in some cases, this disparity between off-campus prices and those charged by college stores is significantly larger.

I got flashbacks of being fleeced by the University of Virginia bookstore when I read that it was trying to sell a first-generation 16GB iPad mini $469 — a tablet that DealNews can be purchased for as little as $199 this summer if you know where to look. And as the site points out, that price tag is still $70 more than you’ll pay to buy the newer version of the tablet directly from Apple.

DealNews also warns consumers to not assume that Apple’s educational discount will save them the most money. The site found instances in which retailers were offering deals that could save you up to $50 more than the Apple discount.

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  1. furiousd says:

    I’ve never understood why colleges are so insistent on charging the students more at every turn. In a situation like they’re in, they should be able to negotiate better prices on everything they sell, particularly computer items and textbooks. Sadly this is not the practice and the new students starting out suffer.

  2. Cara says:

    Last semester I had to purchase a special ‘college edition’ of a certain textbook. It was contained in a binder and I’m still not sure if there was anything special between it and the standard edition, but the teacher insisted we had to have that particular edition.

    This term, I had to buy another special college edition. Not only is it in loose leaf format, but they didn’t even have the decency to include a $5 binder with the $175 “book”.

    Five years from now, colleges will probably start requiring you to purchase a laptop from the college bookstore so they can sell special proprietary software that you must have and can’t get anywhere else. :/

    • CzarChasm says:

      5 Years from now? Try 5 years ago Cara. One of the colleges I graduated from has been requiring “college laptops” for about 7 years now. They cost about $2,500, but you could buy them from a supplier for about $1,500. The extra $1,000 is for “administration costs”.

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      I believe the only “special” thing about them is that the professor and/or the university get a kickback…er, percentage of the sale.

      • Thorzdad2 says:

        While the university might get a cut of the sale price, no professor (which one? professor of computer sales?) would be getting a cut.

        I wouldn’t buy a computer from the university, but the deals students can get on software is fantastic.