What ‘Back to School’ Looks Like This Fall
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Audrey Williams June
September 6, 2022
The fall semester is underway at most colleges, with campuses seeking a return to normal as institutions operate with fewer pandemic restrictions in place.
But what does “normal” look like this fall?
On some campuses, in-person activities are the star of this year’s welcome-to-college season, such as the University of Rhode Island’s day trip to the beach or Marymount University’s new-student outing to a professional soccer match.
Even as many colleges try to recreate some version of a pre-pandemic environment on campus, they’re also navigating issues that have arisen more recently. This fall they’re grappling with student-housing shortages, facing questions about abortion rights, and struggling to support students who can’t afford their basic needs.
And it’s not yet clear how many students will show up on the nation’s campuses, and whether their numbers will make up for recent years’ enrollment drops. Some colleges are already touting the increasing size of their freshman classes.
The data below provide a snapshot of the promise and unexpected challenges of the new academic year:
The amount families are expected to spend on back-to-college expenses in 2022
In its annual survey of back-to-school shopping, the National Retail Federation reported that total expected spending for college expenses in 2022 jumped 4 percent from last academic year, as rising inflation affects shoppers’ budgets. That spending breaks down to $1,199 per household, essentially flat from the year before. Meanwhile, inflation-squeezed shoppers are more price-conscious than before; nearly 40 percent of respondents said they were shopping for items on sale — up nine percentage points from 2021.
The top three categories for back-to-college spending: Electronics, dorm and apartment furnishings, and clothing and accessories.