Parents, just wait until they hit the university!

Once again parents are finding out that a free public education is not exactly free.

They are facing expenses ranging from 73,799 to 120,635 colons ($139.24 to $227.61) to get each child ready for the Feb. 2 opening of the 2016 school year.

The amounts are significantly higher in some cases than the 78,331 to 97,445 colons computed by the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio for 2015. The colon amounts then were $148 to $184.

The ministry does a survey each year, and the costs of required school supplies and uniforms differ based on the grade level of the child.

Each school produces a list of required items, and students are supposed to have them all on the first day even if some might not be used for months. Some students are required to have a plastic flute, for example.

The survey obtained prices from 47 establishments between Jan. 11 and 19 in San José, Alajuela, Cartago and Heredia.

Like similar surveys, the ministry said it pays to shop around. Prices varied as much as 227 percent for identical items and up to 3,800 percent for similar ones, said the ministry.

The school estimate did not include the price of calculators, texts or the matriculation fee, said the ministry. The estimate of expenses for each child was based on the average price of each item, the ministry said. So some parents could end up paying much, much more.

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