Back to school costs makes dent in parent’s wallet

An array of  the potential school supplies a Lebanese student  might need. (Annahar Photo)

BEIRUT: The school year has kicked off, and in addition to tuition, there are a range of other costs which parents have already paid or further educational supplies they are still out shopping for.

With the advancements in education and technology, the cost of school supplies has increased from previous years. Also, not only are families faced with the costs of books and stationary, but also sometimes with that of uniforms.
“Our school uniform was very expensive so we used to get second-hand from our neighbors and even sometimes buy cheap blue shirts and add the logo ourselves. We used to buy the uniform in extreme cases,” says Sarag Hovsepian, a graduate from the Sagesse High School class of 2015.

Schools that require their students to wear a uniform have the duty of manufacturing it themselves, which could be very expensive in terms of purchasing good quality material, paying manual labor and other costs such as delivery of the finished clothes.

“Each year I bought my daughter sets of new clothing. This year, I paid 50,000 L.L. a piece, which I find outrageous considering that by the end of the school year, they wouldn’t be in good condition,” says Rola Abou Zein, whose daughter attends Saint Mary’s Orthodox College.

Another example of expensive uniform costs is Badia Afara, a mother of four children out of whom three are currently attending school. Her daughter Aman, 5, and son Osama, 12, each has a uniform cost of 160,000 L.L. as students of the Makassed School in Sidon. Meanwhile, her second eldest Dima, 16, attends a different school and has a uniform which costs $50.

In accordance with the uniform, certain shoes were also required in order to match, but this varies from one academy to another.

“We used to wear any random black shoes, and the price depended on the place we bought them from. I usually had converse, which cost $80,” says Hovsepian.

Not many schools are as lenient with the shoes policy. Saint Mary’s Orthodox College, along with the other schools belonging to the Eduvation School Network, is strict with their uniforms and requires their students to wear dressy, closed-toed, black shoes.

Aside from uniforms, books are also considered to be a heavy cost, depending on the publisher. Books that come from American publishing houses tend to be more expensive than those that come from their local counterparts. This is mainly due to the fact that American books are updated more frequently and need to be imported. In addition, American books use more expensive material such as hard covers.

While some schools require their students to purchase expensive books, others try and minimize costs, providing the books and even copybooks in exchange for a smaller fee. This can be seen as a form of compensation for the expensive uniform costs.

“When my daughter was younger [grade 1-6], we used to pay a rent fee for her American books at school since they were very expensive to purchase and the school would rather rent them out.

“They also provided all her copybooks. Other than that, we had to purchase the rest,” says Abou Zein. Another such school that does this is Sagesse High School.

Costs also tend to differ within schools depending on the type of educational program followed. The International College, for instance, provides several educational programs, two of which are the International Baccalaureate and the Lebanese Baccalaureate. The International Baccalaureate depends on using American Books, which are as previously mentioned considerably more expensive than Lebanese produced books, which is why students who choose to do the Lebanese Baccalaureate tend to pay much less.

This cost reaches approximately $80, which is much less than the amount required if the student chooses to do the International Baccalaureate.

Technology is also being increasingly incorporated into schools’ educational programs, which raises costs even further.

The Deutsche International School of Beirut now requires seventh graders to purchase a Lenovo yoga pad for educational purposes. All parents are required to purchase it from the school itself, for $1000, aside from the costs of the apps and programs.

The accumulated back-to-school expenses at this time of year can pressure any parents’ household budget, and though families are always generous when it comes to paying for their children’s school cost, education is not an inexpensive line item in the family’s yearly spending plan.

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