Student Price Index localizes nationwide inflation rates

(Graphic by Reece Bachta | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: For a more in-depth view of the economy, recessions, the federal funds rate and inflation, visit these interactive graphics created by Carter Schaffer.

As prices increase across the country, Sydney Rehagen, senior in economics and supply chain management, is on a mission. As the vice president of the Kansas State Economics Club, she set out to answer one question: how are K-State students impacted by inflation?

“It’s really interesting to see the CPI nationally, but how can that correspond to me as a student in particular?” Rehagen said.

The Student Price Index is a localized version of the Consumer Price Index. While the CPI looks at nationwide changes in goods and services pricing, the SPI focuses on goods and services in the Manhattan area over the last 20 years, Rehagen said.

“When we collect data for this year, we can compare our findings to the last year,” Rehagen said. “We like to look at the prior year [and ask], ‘what effects did the inflation have on students?’”

The economic club found the SPI increased by 3.8 percent from last year. Although on-campus dorm housing and tuition prices remained unchanged, groceries, gasoline, pizza and beer prices each increased by 16 percent or more, according to the SPI press release.

“There were COVID outbreaks in meat factories, so it caused them to shut down. Therefore, there’s less meat and meat prices were up which translates to higher pizza prices in the long run,” Travis Truong, sophomore in management systems and economics club member, said.

The econ club calculated the SPI by assigning weight values to each part of a typical K-State student’s budget, Rehagen said. Tuition has a much larger impact on the SPI than textbooks and groceries, according to the press release.

(Graphic by Catherine Eldridge | Collegian Media Group)

Rehagen said each section of the SPI is calculated by econ club members using consistent data sources every year. For example, pizza’s price percentage change is always based on one large pepperoni pizza delivered from Pizza Shuttle, Rehagen said.

Gathering data did not come without challenges this year, Daniel Kuester, adviser of the economics club, said. One example is how some textbooks previously used as proxies have switched to free, open-access books. Kuester said this has drastically changed the textbook SPI over the last two years.

“Last year, to reflect some of these changes, we had textbooks prices down substantially, and we felt like that accounted for these movements toward the open-access stuff,” Kuester said. “This year, we’re gonna keep it unchanged and then we’re gonna go to some different books for the years to come that are still being purchased by students.”

The economics club has tracked the SPI every year since 2002, Rehagen said.

“K-State started this 20 years ago, and it’s been a really good experience to get people involved in the econ club and an introduction to general economics in their everyday lives,” Rehagen said.

I'm Carter Schaffer, the editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Previously I wrote for the news desk and did some photo/video work. I am a senior in mass communications with an emphasis in journalism, and I hope to work in news or video production one day. I've also interned at The Well News in Washington, D.C., through TFAS. I grew up in Andover, Kansas, home of the Andover Trojans, and I've been a Wildcat all my life.