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Used to be that school supplies mostly consisted of pencils, paper and a new backpack. Nowadays, college students also have to make an investment in new tech supplies if they’re going to make the grade.

Schools still provide students with access to a computer lab, but for many, a laptop has long been a college necessity. College computer labs are accessible, but most useful for printing documents or a quick email check. The latest MacBook Pro will put you out about $2,000 (whew!), but there are perfectly good alternatives in the $500 to $700 range all over the Internet.

Also on the must-have list are mobile phones. Not the “free with your contract” deal, but the latest smartphones, which can cost a couple hundred bucks even with a commitment. Add the monthly cost of service, and there’s a real expense.

This infographic produced by OnlineColleges shows that students aren’t just using their phones to call home and text their friends. They’re accessing social networks, and using them for school- and work-related tasks. At this point, a student who doesn’t have access to social networks — whether via a broadband connection or mobile device — is at a severe disadvantage. The ability to access information on the go has upped that ante.

The latest digital option for many students are e-books. There can be some savings on books purchased electronically. For instance, I once bought a book of classic short stories for 99 cents on Kindle. But USA Today points out that, in some cases, the savings is small. In other cases, the need to ultimately print out the book, in part or in its entirety, can drive up the cost. And at some schools, e-books are required.

Then there’s the cost of purchasing the device on which to read these books. Amazon’s Kindle starts at $79 and goes up to $199 for the Fire tablet. Barnes & Noble just knocked $20 off the price of the Nook, but it too approaches $200. And then there’s the iPad, which promises a brand new learning experience, but starts at $399. Apple offers education pricing, which includes a $50 gift card for apps if you’re purchasing the device for school.

Speaking of apps, USA Today also has a list of apps especially for students, many of which are free.

Add to these tech expenditures the increased cost of tuition. In many states, the cost for in-resident tuition at state schools is going up. In some cases dramatically. Here are some ways we recently suggested to help pay for college.

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