Same old store-y: UAF bookstore returns under new management

Chrystalina Roberts-Miller carries an armful of books to the shelves. Photo by Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star

By Jeremia Schrock

Sun Star Reporter

Looking for a way to get a more affordable education?  Rent, don’t buy, your textbooks at the bookstore.  Students can now rent textbooks, in addition to buying used and new books on campus again.

When the bookstore went online with the creation of the Texts 4 U program, the university hoped to cut costs by eliminating staff and by removing storage and shipping costs. According to Robert Holden, Associate Director of Auxiliary and Business Services, the bookstore was spending $200K – $300K on freight costs every term alone.

“The point (of going online) was to improve the quality of service,” said Jake Poole, Vice Chancellor of University Advancement.  “That didn’t happen.” Instead, the bookstore lost business and accrued $1M in debt.

The university neither made nor lost money with the Texts 4 U program. According to Holden, “being online did not add to the deficit.”

For Poole, going online “was not a good decision. We realized that what we really needed was somebody who knew what to do.” Enter the Follett Higher Education Group.

Follett is a collegiate bookstore provider, meaning that the bookstore is managed, supported, and stocked by the company itself. As of July 21, the university bookstore remained under the auspices of the university, but is now operated solely by Follett staff.

However, the “new” staff is still the old staff. “Everyone who worked there (at the original bookstore) was offered a job and took the position,” said Holden.

Rebecca Phillips, the manager of the bookstore, now works for Follett. “I’m so excited to have textbooks back on campus,” she said, citing that the new bookstore has more staff and student resources then ever before. “I can finally serve the university students the way I’ve always wanted to.”

While the university no longer operates the bookstore, they still retain the ability to find someone else to run the bookstore if they so desire.

New services offered by the bookstore include a better selection of used textbooks, programs to educate faculty about the convenience of using the same texts across several semesters, and the bookstore’s new text rental policy.

This fall semester, 37 percent of all textbooks in the bookstore will be available for rental. A student pays roughly half of a text’s original cost and places a credit card down as collateral to cover the rest in the event that the text is not returned; the only demand on the student is the return of the text to the bookstore by the last day of finals week. A student is free to highlight and write in the book just as if they had purchased it.

There are texts available for rent in several core requirement classes. For example, “Essence of Anthropology” has a new purchase price of $118.50. If rented, the cost to the student would only be $53.33, a saving of $65.17.  “Chemistry & Chemical Reactivity” has a new price of $212.75 with the rental cost not even breaking the triple-digit mark ($95.74). “Old World of Literature” clocks in at a new price of $115.50 with a rental cost of only $51.98. Regardless of whether a text is new or used, the rental fee will remain the same.

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