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Online College Stores Charge 35% More for Laptops

By :Louis Ramirez
Buying your laptop on campus can cost you more than your typical back-to-school sale. To save money, compare prices and look for deals outside your campus.

Campus bookstores are renowned for their price gouging, but it turns out textbooks aren’t the only items they sell at a premium. We looked at the online bookstores of six universities and found that laptops and tablets are also sold at higher-than-average prices. In some instances, we found devices that were up to 135% more than what you’d pay at a normal store.

To compare prices, we turned to U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings for private and public universities. While our intent was to look at the computer stores of the top five private and top five public schools, we found that many private schools didn’t allow access to their online bookstores without a valid student email or ID. So our final list consists of the top five public schools and one private school.

For each campus store, we looked at its cheapest laptop, its most expensive laptop, and its cheapest tablet available. We then compared the colleges’ prices to recent deals we’ve posted on our site. For accuracy, we only compared items with similar configurations and hardware.

Campus Prices Are 35% Higher Than Back-to-School Deals

On average, we found that campus laptop prices were 35% more expensive than back-to-school deals for the same systems, purchased elsewhere. In addition, many campus stores suffered from a very limited selection of devices, oftentimes selling older laptop models or underpowered systems at higher-than-average prices.

The University of Virginia, for instance, is selling what appears to be the first-generation iPad mini 16GB Tablet for a whopping $469. We’ve seen this tablet for just $199 on more than one occasion this summer, which makes the University of Virginia’s price a 135% increase over this summer’s best deal. Even if the store is actually selling the newer Retina version, that price tag is still $70 more than what Apple charges directly.

Likewise, the University of California, Berkeley offers the HP Pavilion TouchSmart 10-e010nr AMD A4 10.1″ Touchscreen Laptop for $319 when we listed it for $229 mid-July. That’s a 39% increase over the best deal we could find for this exact system.

To be fair, not all campus devices we investigated were overpriced. Some devices, like the 2014 MacBook Air and HP 14″ Chromebook, were just as cheap on campus as they were in our deal archives. However, of the many deals we checked, 68% were cheaper when purchased outside of campus versus buying them on-site in college.

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