Back-to-school sticker shock hits home for New Brunswick parents

·3 min read
According to an Angus Reid survey, 40 cent of parents and students in Atlantic Canada are afraid they will have to take on debt to support this year's school expenses. (CBC - image credit)
According to an Angus Reid survey, 40 cent of parents and students in Atlantic Canada are afraid they will have to take on debt to support this year's school expenses. (CBC - image credit)

Add school supplies to the list of items that have gone up in price thanks to inflation.

And as another school year is set to begin, that has some parents wondering how they will afford everything their children will need to head back to the classroom.

In fact, 40 per cent of parents and students in Atlantic Canada are afraid they will have to take on debt to support this year's school expenses, according to Stressed by the Bell, an Angus Reid report.

The survey also found that 69 per cent expect higher prices for school supplies/books due to supply chain issues.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

Christine Jewett, whose two daughters attend Canterbury High School 34 kilometres south of Woodstock, said the cost of school supplies is definitely up.

She was picking up the last few items from their school lists and initially tried to purchase the items online. But the site kept crashing and she was forced to shop in person at Staples in Fredericton on Friday.

What would have cost her about $150 online, cost her $220 in person.

"The cost is definitely higher on things like loose leaf and binders, and it seems that there's less supply of things, so you almost have to purchase what is there."

Donations down at some non-profits

Some parents have turned to community groups for help, but even certain of those organizations are short of supplies this year.

Moncton Headstart runs an annual school supply program where they fill backpacks with all the essentials for the year, said Caroline Donelle, the group's executive director.

But this year, they had to cut off applications early because donations are down by 80 per cent.

"So last year, we received almost $11,000 in community donations and this year … we had $2,600. So a significant drop," said. Donelle.

Gilles Landry/CBC
Gilles Landry/CBC

She believes families and businesses are "stretched beyond what they've ever been stretched before."

She said they even ran out of backpacks much earlier than normal, so the last of the packages will be distributed in cloth bags.

Last year, the group filled 841 backpacks and this year, they filled 668.

Schools can help

Schools sometimes receive supplies directly that they can distribute to students who are without, explained Jennifer Read, the director of communications for the Anglophone West School District.

"Our schools continue to work with families in need to ensure they have the necessary supplies to get off to a good start," said Read.

The coordinator of the Fredericton Anti-Poverty Organization said they do what they can to supply families with back-to-school items.

"But we're not a reliable supplier of this material because we rely on the ups and downs of donations," said Dan Weston.

He said the need this year is worse than it has been in recent years.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

"It's been bad for a long time," said Weston. "This year is worse because we have rampant inflation."

Although Statistics Canada reported the country's inflation rate saw its first decrease in a year last month, many prices — including for groceries — are still going up.

Sticker shock 

Ricardo Obusan was out on Friday with a shopping list of items for his nephew, an international student.

He said he was surprised at how much everything was.

"The bills are racking up, that's for sure," said Obusan.

In an effort to keep the costs down, he looked for the usually-less-expensive store brands.

Eric Church, out shopping for the last items on his daughters' back-to-school list, was also surprised by how expensive things were. Digging through a store bag, he identified two binders, some dividers and tape.

Those few items cost him $55.