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By the Numbers: Back to School 2015

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s that time again, and the numbers behind this year’s back-to-school season offer insights into both educational and business trends.

How many students and teachers are going back to school?

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has just released its Fast Facts for Back to School 2015. According to the site, this year a projected 50.1 million prekindergarten through high school students are expected to attend public schools in the U.S. That number is slightly higher than one year ago.

Of that number, approximately 14.9 million students will be attending public high schools (grades 9-12).

According to NCES, an additional 4.9 million will be attending private elementary and secondary schools.

Public schools are projected to employ 3.1 million full-time teachers, for a student/teacher ratio of 16/1, about the same as it was in the year 2000. Private schools are expected to employ about 400,000 full-time teachers, for a student/teacher ratio of 12.5/1, lower than the statistic for that group in 2000.

Per student expenditures — that is, the costs of educating each student — are expected to average $12,605 this academic year.

This Fall, about 20.2 million students are expected to attend colleges and universities in the U.S., with more women than men working on degrees. The number of college students has increased by nearly 5 million since 2000, a combination of both an increase in the college-age population and enrollment numbers, according to NCES.

When are students and teachers returning?

Unlike attendance numbers, this question is a bit tougher to answer. There are wide disparities among school start dates in districts and states. In some parts of the country, the traditional first day of school now takes place in July.

This year, by the week of August 10, 30 states had some of their schools back in session. By the week of August 17, all of the states had at least some schools in session. But keep in mind that because school districts typically set their own calendars, there’s no way to make a general statement about back to school start dates even within any one state.

Experts agree it’s safe to say that by the time we reach the week of September 14th, all K-12 public schools in the U.S. have launched their new academic year with staff in place and students in seats.

How much will parents and students spend on back to school this year?

The back to school shopping season is second only to Christmas in terms of its impact on the economy, so experts are quick to look for trends as parents and students open their wallets.

This year , the National Retail Federation predicts that total spending for K-12 and college will reach about $68 billion.

The average family with K-12 students expected to spend about $630 on clothing and supplies, but many parents who responded to the NRF survey this year said they would be more cautious and determine what their students really needed before buying.

College students and their parents expected to spend about $899 for back to school items like electronics, clothing, dorm furnishings and supplies.

As one might expect, online shopping continues to gain in popularity, showing steady increases over the past 5 years.

Although school may have started weeks ago in some places, several surveys indicate that many parents are waiting to do some back to school shopping. A combination of state “tax-free holidays” and late summer sales may be contributing to that trend.

And while Mom or Dad may control the debit card, they don’t make all the decisions. About 86% of parents surveyed said that they expected their children to make at least some of the purchasing choices.

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