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Tuesday
Sep202011

Could College Dorm Rooms Hold the Key to Half a Million New US Jobs?

ABC News(DALLAS) -- Move-in day on college campuses is filled with a lot boxes, sweat, farewells and a few tears. But for incoming freshman Monica Resendiz at Southern Methodist University in Texas, hers was filled with a mission.

Inspired by World News, "Made in America" series she set out to outfit her new dorm room with only "Made in America" products. Unable to find any she tweeted the World News team for help.

"I haven't been able to find any #MadeInAmerica products to fill my dorm, suggestions," she wrote.

World News' Sharyn Alfonsi responded and found Resendiz in a bare room in need of everything from bedding to bath towels.

"No lamp ... nothing on your walls, your walls look sad," Alfonsi joked.

Resendiz's roommate, Michaela Starling, was already moved in and looked perfectly at home by the time World News arrived. Starling had bought most of her stuff from a catalog that is sent to all incoming freshman over the summer. The catalog, produced by On Campus Marketing, has similar deals with 850 schools across the country and sells dorm room staples like comforters, sheets, pillows and lamps.

Starling may have been all moved in, but her side of the room was foreign-made, with many of the products coming from China and Bangladesh.

It may not seem like bedspreads can spur an economic recovery, but consider this, the average U.S. back to college shopper was expected to spend more than $800 this season -- $46 billion in total. If all of that was spent on U.S.-made goods, economists say, that could result in almost a half-million new jobs.

But a majority of that back to school money is being spent overseas because of deals catalogue companies like On Campus Marketing have made. These companies give financial incentives to the schools who send their catalogues to the hundreds of thousands of incoming students. In turn students and their families are then using these as a one-stop shopping guide to college, despite the fact that none of the products are made in America.

So Resendiz and World News set out to see if they could find the made in America items being left out of these popular college catalogues. After hitting the campus bookstore and local department stores they were able to find little things like tape and a shower basket, but had no quick luck with necessities like comforters, sheets and lamps.

However after some serious online searching Resendiz was able to find everything she needed to stock up her dorm room entirely with American-made products.

But did the "Made in America" goods cost a premium or could a penny pinching college student afford them? World News compared the "Made in America" products to the ones from the catalog Starling used found that while the American-made bed sheet were $3 more and the American-made lamp was more expensive, overall Resendiz's American-made dorm room was $92 cheaper than the foreign-made room.

So if the American-made stuff was cheaper would the more than 800 universities that use On Campus Marketing's catalog be willing to make a switch and offer American-made items?

World News asked SMU if they would make the switch. The school told ABC News that the catalog company locks schools into contracts, but as soon as theirs was up in two years, they would seek out "Made in America" products.

It turns out dozens of universities are locked into contracts with the company, so World News asked On Campus Marketing if they'd start selling American goods.

The company said yes, as long as the American goods matched the quality and cost of the foreign-made products.

World News introduced On Campus Marketing to Celia Rachel in Mohican Mills, N.C., a company that makes bedding at the same price as its foreign competitors. Celia Rachel boasts that its sheets are not only the same price, but last three times as long as the ones On Campus Marketing is selling right now.

According to economists, if every year, the more than three million incoming college freshman decided to buy sheets from American manufacturers, companies like Celia Rachel could quadruple their workforce and hire more than 1,300 new employees.

Most college students just create messes with their dorm rooms, but an entire generation is capable of creating thousands of jobs with theirs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio