Posts tagged textbooks
Beginning in fall 2013, University of Southern Indiana students can take advantage of a new purchasing program at the campus bookstore. Students will have the option of charging textbooks and supplies to their accounts with the Bursar’s Office, which will combine bookstore fees with tuition and other University expenses, allowing students to set up payment plans that best fit their needs.
“As an institution sensitive to costs and with student success at the core of our mission, we feel allowing students to charge required books and supplies is a good decision,” said Steve Bridges, assistant vice president for Finance and Administration and assistant treasurer. “It’s a service that we feel strongly about offering and that is not available from other book providers. The days of a student not having the tools to be successful have ended.”
The bookstore also will continue its initiative to encourage students to support their University and save money by matching textbook rental prices. If students find lower rental prices at local stores, they are encouraged to alert bookstore staff and rental prices will be matched. Verification of the current published price is required and the matching program does not apply to online vendors.
More changes are expected at the University bookstore this summer. A major remodeling scheduled to be complete in July will include a new name and enhanced policies and products. Read more here.
The MBS POS accepts a variety of payment options including Bursar Accounts. Talk with your MBS Systems Sales Consultant to learn more!
The following excerpt is from the article article Online-Only Text Sales Requires Careful Prep, written by Cindy Ruckman, Director of Publications for the National Association of College Stores, and published in Campus Marketplace. Ruckman offers great detail on the process stores should take when considering an online-only textbook operation, based on MBS regional manager, Kathy Cameron’s, expertise.
In her CAMEX 2013 Flash Session entitled What Happens When the Textbook Department Goes Virtual?, Cameron explained several areas stores should consider when looking for a third-party program to support their online textbook sales. Take a look at her advice below and view the full article for further information.
Cameron said campus stores can start the search for an online textbook partner by asking prospects about their virtual bookstore practices from the student perspective. Find out how the online interface will be branded and whether it can be customized to suit your school’s needs. Can the provider furnish all the textbook formats and options your store requires—new and used print, rentals, digital? Is inventory availability shown in real time? How easily can students place their orders and can they pay with financial aid?
Stores should take a close look at providers’ order fulfillment, including how they make procurement decisions, the degree of automation in the fulfillment process, and from which locations the orders will ship. Cameron recommended asking for the back-order rate and order accuracy rate as well.
The availability of used textbooks is another important criterion. “How extensive is their used-book inventory?” Cameron asked. “What are their sources for used books?” Stores should inquire about whether buyback programs are part of the package and what type, including whether they offer guaranteed buyback.
Even if e-textbooks and other digital materials aren’t big sellers on your campus right now, you should still evaluate the capabilities of vendors to supply these formats. Cameron suggested asking which platforms and devices (including mobile) are supported, how many e-book titles are available, and whether digital content is integrated with the school’s learning management system. How do students access e-books—online or as a download—and what are their key functional features?
Customer service is another area stores should explore before signing with a provider. “What support staff is provided to manage the online store and the relationship with the school?” she asked. Providers should be able to describe their policies and practices, including how students can contact them about problems.
“Can a student at one o’clock in the morning have a live chat with somebody, because you’re not there?” Cameron said. “When you’re looking at a virtual bookstore environment, it has to be reflective of your store.”
The switch from physical textbook department to online-only may be wrenching for some store personnel, especially if the move was mandated by the administration. As a former store manager for 15 years, Cameron said she understands their anxiety.
“The first question I hear is, ‘If they take the books out, what happens to my job?’ Nothing,” said Cameron, explaining that the store still needs textbook staff to work with faculty and process adoptions.
In most cases, after textbook sales go online, the college store still remains in business, taking advantage of the extra space to expand into more general merchandise, technology, and service categories.
“The virtual bookstore only takes books out of the bookstore,” Cameron said. “That still leaves all the things that make you money. The high-margin stuff, that stays in the bookstore.”
If your store is considering an online-only textbook option, talk with your MBS Representative for more detail on how we can help.
In the following excerpt, from the article Making Omni-Channel Retailing A Reality, the author, Michael Griffiths of MicrosoftDynamics, highlights the importance of creating a united system in today’s changing world of retail. See what Griffiths has to say below, then read the full article on Forbes.com for more information on how omni-channel retailing is impacting the industry.
Just about everyone in the business is talking about “omni-channel” retailing—an approach that transcends multi-channel retailing, to connect the web, mobile, and brick-and-mortar channels into a truly seamless customer experience. It’s what customers are coming to expect and, when done right, can provide sellers with greater visibility into customer behavior, allowing the retailer to understand (and influence) the customer journey across channels.
The key to succeeding in omni-channel retailing is understanding the new role of the store: the central representation of your brand. This means that no matter which channel the customer is using to reach you—brick and mortar, online, or mobile—your customers see your store as a single, transparent system rather than multiple channels with separate inventory, processing, and delivery systems.
The combination of multiple channels, markets, and devices highlights the most significant challenge of all: real omni-channel execution and insight in a world of applications that were not built to work together. How can retailers take advantage of additional channels, emerging markets, and new opportunities for growth when traditional business applications just aren’t up to the task?
Omni-channel retail may sound like a challenge, but offering your customer a seamless experience across channels, is easy with the help of MBS. Our POS, e-commerce solution, mobile application, accounting, analytics, text management applications and more are all tightly integrated, so you can create a cohesive customer experience with little effort. Talk to your MBS Systems Sales consultant about the solutions we offer and how we can help your store go omnichannel.
Last year, Earth Day was observed by more than 1 billion people in 192 countries. This worldwide event, celebrated today, inspires people to come together in an effort to reduce environmental destruction, and provide for an Earth that future generations can enjoy.
But, for many, sustainability is something to be celebrated throughout the year. Hope-Geneva Bookstore at Hope College is one such store, who believes they should initiate eco-friendly solutions as often as possible.
So, for the past three years, they’ve offered students the option to recycle their textbooks through OnePlanet Books. Bonnie Washburn, MBS Representative, clued the store into the offering and they were eager to implement it.
“The best part about the program is that it’s easy,” explained Mary Deenik, textbook manager. “We explored other options, but so much of the money was lost in administrative costs. This program allows us to gain the most revenue, so we can have the most significant impact on the causes that we support. Plus, we’ve worked with MBS for years and it’s a company we trust, so can say without a doubt where the money comes from and where it goes.”
For the first couple terms, the store reinvested the funds earned through OnePlanet Books into the store. But, when a student approached them with the idea of donating to Rwanda, an area of the world that is desperately in need of support, the store’s staff was eager to help in any way they could.
In 1994, Rwanda was the site of genocide. Tragically, approximately one million individuals were killed in a little over three months. This terrifying event decimated the country’s economic base, impoverishing the population. As a result, many children were left without families to raise them.
Daniel Owens, senior at Hope College, is an active member of the Be Hope project, an on-campus organization that has worked in conjunction with the Nibakure Children’s Village (NCV), a nonprofit dedicated to providing resources to the orphaned children of Rwanda, since 2008 to build and support an orphanage.
In 2011, Owens joined the cause as an intern and began searching for new ways to generate resources for the orphanage.
“I got to thinking, our school always has book buyback, but sometimes, the books can’t be bought back and students are upset that they have nowhere to take their book,” he explained. “What if we gave students the opportunity to do something positive with it?”
From there, Owens approached Deenik and pitched his idea. OnePlanet Books immediately came to mind and a partnership was quickly formed.
“Daniel and other members of the organization setup the table near our buyback, and staffed the whole thing,” Deenik said. “They were very proactive about it; for instance, they contacted different professors on campus, and many showed up with boxes full of books! It’s amazing what they’re able to collect, while still juggling finals during the same week.”
According to Deenik, the whole campus came together to show their support for the cause.
“The cooperation we’ve received is amazing,” she described. “Our deans, faculty, staff and students have really stepped up and gotten involved. For example, one of our custodians finds unclaimed books, which she collects and brings to the store throughout the year. The way everyone unites is truly wonderful.”
The Book Drive has raised well over $1000 to contribute to the cause during the bi-annual events hosted during buyback. A large part of that success is due to the fact that the store has offered to match any funds that Owens and the Be Hope project raise, dollar for dollar.
“Mary has been generous and supportive throughout the process; we’re very grateful,” Owens emphasized. “The Book Drive is a mutually beneficial experience because it fills a need at the bookstore and for our organization. It’s a great way for us to spread awareness to students about the work that we’re doing and the store is able to offer a positive alternative to throwing away textbooks. It helps the store, it helps the students and, most importantly, it helps Rwanda.”
“We feel good about it! It gives me peace of mind knowing that I am disposing of no value books in a responsible manner and helping a great cause at the same time,” Deenik added. “The best part is that the orphanage receives every penny that is raised. I hope the Book Drive only continues to grow from here.”
For Owens, the funds raised during the drive have special meaning. He spent four weeks at the orphanage in Rwanda as a part of the Mellon Scholars Program, allowing him to see firsthand the true impact each dollar has for the children who call it home.
“Our mission isn’t to save an orphanage, it’s to empower the children there with opportunities,” he explained. “We allocate the money we raise to suit their specific needs. For instance, the money from this year’s Book Drive went to support Internet access.”
Unsurprisingly, Owens says the experience of living alongside the 17 children who reside in the orphanage was a life-changing one.
“It was a truly fascinating experience,” he said. “I learned far more by going there than I could ever give back; it was amazing.”
And, it all started with a book.
Imagine what your store could turn no value books into; contact your MBS Representative to learn how OnePlanet Books can earn your store revenue that can be reinvested into your campus or a cause of your choosing. Happy Earth Day!
The following excerpt is from the article State representative introduces bill terminating textbook sales tax, written by Sydney Cohen, Aggie News Writer, for The California Aggie. To learn more about the proposed bill and what other professors had to say about it, view the full article.
On Feb. 19, State Rep. Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) proposed the Textbook Relief Act, which would exempt textbooks from sales tax in California. Donnelly said the initiative is an investment in California’s future.
According to Donnelly, California has a surplus of money that simply needs to be redistributed so that money isn’t wasted. Donnelly said that the sales tax exemption on textbooks wouldn’t be detrimental to the state’s budget.
“There’s money all over the place that we’re wasting on things. To me, this would be a sound investment because it essentially says we’re serious about producing an educated workforce — we’re willing to invest in students that show promise,” Donnelly said. “I want to make this the most prosperous and freest state in the Union so [that] everybody wants to come here.”
Donnelly estimates the tax exemption would put approximately $100 back in the pocket of the average California student.
“Our unit sales have increased based on our rental program,” Meley said.
Meley said she believes that although a tax break provides relief, the bookstore has been providing relief through the rental program.
As the assistant director of course materials, Meley seeks out as many variations of the course material as possible to ensure students are confident in their purchases.
“Quite a few instructors say, ‘I want this version because it costs less,’” Meley said.
According to Jason Lorgan, stores director at UC Davis, the rental program lowers the cost of textbooks by 70 percent and is utilized by 15,000 UC Davis students.
“Our goal is for as many students to have course material as possible, and at the lowest price,” Lorgan said.
Lorgan said that he believes instructors’ first priority is content, but that they are still concerned with price.
“We often hear from publishers that the conversations they used to have with faculty used to just be about content, and now it’s about content and price,” he said.
UC Davis political science professor Ethan Scheiner forgoes using a textbook for a low-cost course pack for his Political Science 2: Introduction to Comparative Politics class.
Scheiner said that if he found a textbook of equal or only slightly better content-value to his customized course pack, he would choose a course pack to save students money.
“If I wanted to, I could just grab [a textbook] and teach to the textbook, but the other part is to save students money,” Scheiner said. “I wouldn’t say the main driving force [to choosing a course pack] is to save students money, but it’s certainly a big part of my thinking.”
Scheiner said when it comes to students who study the social sciences and humanities, the Textbook Relief Act would have a lower impact because of the lesser use of textbooks in their courses. In contrast, he said the bill could save students in the natural sciences and related majors a much more significant amount of money simply because of the use of textbooks in their courses.
Donnelly said that supporters of the Textbook Relief Act should write emails proclaiming their support and deliver them through the Textbook Relief Act website. The website also provides a link to sign a petition to aid the bill in getting passed.
The following excerpt, from the article ‘For Many Students, Print Is Still King,’ was written by Jennifer Howard and published on The Chronicle of Higher Education. Although the media often stresses that eBooks outnumber print books, Howard reminds us with her relevant examples that this simply is not the case in the realm of higher education. Take a look at some real testimonies from publishers and professors alike in the following excerpt then read the full article for further insight.
Despite the hype about e-books, the classic textbook hasn’t gone away. In fact, the hold-it-in-your-hands book remains the first choice for many instructors and students.
Even as publishers scramble to produce new kinds of content for a digital learning environment, print is still king for many of the biggest-selling textbooks.
Students want cheaper textbooks and have gotten more creative about acquiring them, but most aren’t calling for a digital revolution, according to some recent surveys. “The vast majority of students still prefer print,” says Michael Wright, director of college sales at Norton.
Even publishers that have invested more heavily in new digital features say they’re not doing away with books but making them part of “customizable learning experiences,” to borrow a phrase from Pearson, the biggest player in the field. “We still print everything,” says Jerome Grant, the company’s chief learning officer for higher education. Pearson’s aim is not “to bias print or digital but to offer the experience in multiple formats.”
Think of this as the era of “print-plus,” when the most popular textbook option remains a book—often printed and bound, sometimes digital—plus whatever extras and enhancements professors and students are willing to pay for.
The ‘Comfort’ of Print
Julie K. Bartley, an associate professor of geology and chair of the geology department at Gustavus Adolphus College, hears the sentiment from her undergraduates. “Our students don’t really want to have e-books,” Ms. Bartley says. “What I hear from them a lot of times is that they feel some sort of comfort in being able to hold the thing in their hands.”
Her department’s decision to stick with a classic textbook has been driven partly by students’ preferences, partly by the college’s pedagogical philosophy. The “Principles of Geology” course that Ms. Bartley and her colleagues teach satisfies a core science requirement and serves as an introduction to the major. Any textbook it uses has to appeal both to general-ed students and rising science majors. The assigned text, Earth: Portrait of a Planet, Fourth Edition, published by Norton, “is neither excessively complicated nor excessively simplified,” Ms. Bartley says. “It’s right at the reading level of most of our students.”
The book requires some careful reading attention, which remains a priority for the college. At Gustavus Adolphus, Ms. Bartley says, “we feel that every college student should be able to read a relatively complicated, unfamiliar text.”
Students’ major concern about textbooks isn’t format but cost. “Probably the second biggest complaint in northern Minnesota after the weather is the cost of textbooks,” Ms. Bartley says. The department has used the book for several years. To accommodate the desire for used-book options, the instructors phased in the latest edition of the book so that the older edition could stay in use a little longer.
So far, supplemental online material hasn’t been a deciding factor in choosing a textbook, according to Ms. Bartley. “We don’t feel like it’s central enough to the way we teach,” she says, because the course revolves around what happens in the classroom.
‘A Fast Transition’
Pearson, too, has placed bigger bets on new kinds of digital services. Jerome Grant, the company’s chief learning officer, describes how, at Pearson, “print is simply one of the outputs” of a program that emphasizes combinations of content, applications, platforms, and services. “Today the dominant model is a sort of text-media value pack,” he says, “where people use something like MyLab for homework or remediation.” (MyLab offers interactive content designed to draw students into course material and help them test their knowledge.) Those “value packs” often include a textbook, bundled with digital materials and services.
Mr. Grant does not expect print products to vanish. “Do I envision a time when people won’t buy print? No,” he says. “Do I envision a time when the predominant distribution mechanism is digital? Absolutely.”
Over at John Wiley & Sons, Tim Stookesberry sees signs of “a fast transition from a print to a digital world.” He serves as Wiley’s vice president and editorial director for global education. Less than 50 percent of the company’s higher-education revenue still comes from “pure print products,” he says, down more than 5 percent from two years ago.
Decline does not spell doom for the old-school textbook, though. “Increasingly the issue is not either/or,” Mr. Stookesberry says of the nagging print-versus-digital question. “It’s a both-and-all conversation.”
Change is an admittedly difficult, yet necessary, part of any operation. Without it, companies can become quickly outdated in the ever-evolving marketplace. That’s why change has become such an integral aspect of collegiate retail. Recognizing this fact, BYU-Idaho University Store decided it was time to update their textbook department by reorganizing with textbooks shelved by author rather than course.
“We learned that San Diego State University Bookstore had been organizing their textbooks like this for nearly 30 years, so we wanted to learn more,” explained Ryan Buttars, merchandise supervisor. “There was some hesitation because it was a big change to make. However, after reviewing their program, we knew we had to try it.”
As with any new venture, there was a short adjustment period for students and faculty.
“We went through a few semesters with some confusion but, after that, it was smooth sailing,” Buttars said.
Since then, the store has seen several significant advantages from the reorganization.
“It’s an excellent space-saver because we don’t have to shelve a title in multiple locations for various courses,” he explained. “We also spend less time in preparation for rush periods and, as a result, spend less in payroll.”
For students, the change has made the book buying experience even more convenient.
“There’s less confusion in searching for books,” he said. “Students simply follow all of our signage and their book is right there. It’s very intuitive.”
The only drawback they have found is that some students browse for books by discipline, just out of curiosity.
“Those few patrons simply have to go to our text desk for assistance,” he added.
In fact, the newly organized textbook department was such a success that the other stores soon took notice. For example, BYU-Idaho University Store’s staff later helped Utah State University Bookstore and BYU Bookstore change their text department, too. Both stores found it to be just as beneficial.
“In the words of our director, Doug, Mason, “I can’t see why all college stores aren’t doing this!” added Buttars.
To those who are considering the change, Buttars strongly recommends it.
“Just because we’ve always done things a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way,” he stressed. “Every change you make should be done with the customer in mind, and this is one that will certainly make their experience more convenient. It’s been proven as an effective organization; I haven’t heard of one store that’s made the change and gone back to the old way.”
How does your store organize your textbook department? Share your feedback in the comments section!
Nowadays, competition in the textbook industry is steep. That’s why University Store at Murray State University wanted to find a way to both increase their textbook purchases and reward those who were shopping with them. So, in the fall of 2011, the store decided to offer an incentive to those students who took advantage of their prepackage program.
“We hosted a VIP party that took place after-hours and invited only those students who had reserved their textbooks with us,” explained Karol Hardison, director. “Our prepackage program allows us to guarantee that we have a student’s book order, so the more participation we can get, the better!”
Because it was the first time they had implemented the event, the store didn’t have much time to advertise. Instead, they simply placed an invitation in each student’s prepackage box, asking them to stop by.
Unsure of what attendance would be like, Hardison and her staff were thrilled to find a crowd of students waiting with their invitations in hand when the party began.
To add to the exclusive atmosphere, staff blacked out the windows of the store, leaving only small holes where passersby could gain a glimpse of the fun happening inside.
“Students walking by would peer in and see all the activities going on; it was definitely a good way to spread the word,” Hardison added.
Once inside, staff handed attendees a raffle ticket which would be their key to much of the fun throughout the evening.
“We called random raffle numbers every 15 minutes for door prizes,” Hardison said. “We had several vendors donate items, so it wasn’t a huge expense for us.”
Students also had the chance to win prizes by completing a variety of activities at different stations set up throughout the store.
“Each department had their own unique minute-to-win-it game that was lead by a full-time staff member,” she said. ‘It was great because it gave students a chance to not only see what all we had to offer, but also to get acquainted with the actual employees that work in each department.”
One of the most popular games was called ‘Junk in the Trunk’ and involved students tying a tissue box full of ping pong balls around their waist, then trying to dislodge each of the balls from the box.
“They just loved it; there was definitely a lot of laughter coming from that department!” Hardison described.
Then, near the end of the night, the store called off 10 raffle numbers and invited the lucky winners to compete in backpack races!
Each of the ten participants was given the chance to try and fill a backpack with store merchandise in a designated period of time while their classmates watched and cheered them on. The only catch was that the students had to grab at least one item from each department and not exceed the $150 price limit.
“We had to practice ahead of time with our employees to determine a time limit that would allow the students to fill their backpack, while still making it challenging,” she explained. “It ended up working perfectly and the students had a blast! They were all asking when they would get a chance to compete, too!”
The store awarded each participant a vendor-donated backpack just for participating and the person who came closest to the $150 limit was then awarded all the contents of their backpack.
There were special deals for students during the event, too! The store offered discounts on merchandise from the vendors who sponsored the event, marking each promotional rack with balloons for easy identification.
“We didn’t expect to sell a lot, but we ended up having long lines at the register!” she described. “So, that’s something we definitely plan to increase in the future.”
With so many incentives, it’s easy to understand why the store received overwhelmingly positive feedback.
“We were very happy with the response we got from students,” Hardison said. “The event was extremely well attended, for not having been advertised very heavily, and we had a steady stream of students come in and out throughout the evening. They were all excited and having a good time, so it was a success!”
By interacting with the store’s staff, students also gained a new perspective on the store.
“It gave us a chance to get to know them on a personal basis and show them that we’re not the big bad bookstore that they hear about,” she described. “In fact, after the event, we had several attendees start stopping in every week just to say hi to the staff members that they’d met and see what’s new!”
Beyond the good times, the store saw a significant increase in their sales the following semester, even though the event is only held in the fall.
“Our prepackage numbers doubled, which resulted in an 11% increase in textbook sales!” she explained. “Because we had such a strong response, we’re already promoting next year’s event, especially to our incoming freshmen class during orientation events this summer. The real test will be this coming fall, when we see if those students decide to prepackage with us because of the party.”
To gain extra excitement from those who have already attended the prepackage party, the store is offering current students 5% off their textbooks and a free t-shirt, in addition to their invitation, if they reserve their textbooks by the end of finals.
“These promotions are just another way for us to have fun with our students and show them that they’re special; because they are!” Hardison said. “We’re definitely looking forward to continually growing our initiatives in the future!”
Does your store offer a textbook reservation program? How do you promote it? Share your ideas in the comments section below!
With upfront savings on their minds, students across the country are demanding textbook rental. But, many college stores are hesitant to offer the option because of the extra labor and financial risk involved. Wichita State University Bookstore, who has offered rental for the past three semesters, was definitely no exception.
“We were very nervous!” admitted Lisa Fitzsimmons, course materials manager. “But, it was becoming such a popular choice that we knew we had to give it a chance. It was important to offer our students another affordable option.”
According to Fitzsimmons, the store’s biggest concern was the logistics of implementing a program.
“We were concerned about the effort it would take to get rental up and running both on the front end, of offering the books through our system, and the back end when students returned their books at the end of the semester,” she said. “It’s one thing to see or hear about how something will work, but it’s always different to actually experience it.”
Based on their apprehensions, the store decided to start small by renting only 5 titles in the fall of 2010 for some of their larger core classes where the option would have the most impact. After seeing how the process worked, however, they wished that they had rented more!
“It was much easier than any of us originally thought!” Fitzsimmons described. “The process wasn’t difficult at all and we were very relieved that the reality was much better than our expectations.”
In fact, the following semester, the store offered 125 titles for rent, demonstrating their confidence in the program. After that, rental at Wichita State has only continued to grow.
In the fall of 2011, the store took advantage of MBS Rental’s non-serialized option, which significantly reduced their labor and allowed them to expand the program yet again.
“It was an absolute night and day difference,” she explained. “Before, we would spend so much time placing stickers on our books, but that completely eliminated with non-serialized rental. Plus, we no longer have to worry about running out of inventory; we just assign the book as a rental, put it out there, and go on with our day. The reduced workload has been so valuable to us!”
Non-serialized rental saved time for the students too, with the ability to Rent at POS.
“We used to have a big line because students would have to stop and fill out their rental contract separately before checking out,” she said. “With Rent at POS, we’ve been able to greatly improve our processing time for rentals. Now, students just have to wait in one line and we print their contract directly on their receipt!”
Since their transition to non-serialized rental, Wichita State University Bookstore has seen increased use of their rental program, proving its popularity among students.
“This past semester, we rented approximately 6,000 textbooks which, on a campus of 15,000, means we’re renting to nearly half of the student population,” she explained. “They’re so excited to have the option of renting their textbooks and love how easy the process is; it’s been very successful!”
To stores who are considering starting a rental program, Fitzsimmons has one piece of advice: “Jump into it!”
“Enlist the help of everyone in your store and put your heads together to create a program that best meets your needs. Having a used book and/or systems provider who already has a great process in place made it much easier for us!” she said. “We were apprehensive at first and drug our feet, but it’s been a very good addition to the store. Especially once we converted to non-serialized rental; it’s been a breeze!”
Want more information on how MBS Rental works? Learn all the details here. Do you offer rental in your store? Share your experience in the comment section below!
The following article, Tri-County Tech’s campus store lowers per-student cost of books, was written by Anna Mitchell for IndependentMail.com. Congratulations to TCTC Campus Store for the great feature; you deserve it!
At $413 a semester, books and supplies cost full-time students at Tri-County Technical College a third less than the national average.
Kevin Steele, the college’s manager of administrative services, said he’d prefer to students spend even less, more like $220.
“That’s a very aggressive goal, but we have to think that way,” Steele said. “Our online competition — they are thinking that way.”
Steele updated the school’s commissioners this week on the campus store’s operations and savings he’s ferreted out through technology, inventory control and new programs. Unlike many college bookstores, such as the Barnes and Noble at Clemson University, Tri-County Tech’s store has not been leased out to a national chain.
By tracking inventory, Steele said, he was able to reduce orders by $600,000 — a saving in staff time and postage returning unneeded books.
“It’s much more of an industry model,” he said.
The goal, Steele said, is to help retain students by limiting their costs and making the experience as quick and convenient as possible. Books and supplies are the second-highest expense most students face when getting an education, he said.
Under Steele’s watch, Tech’s campus store has started online sales, which exceeded $600,000 last year; launched a student marketplace for textbook sales and swaps; established book buy-back counters at satellite campuses in Anderson and Easley; expanded electronic book offerings; and, as of last week, offered book rentals for the first time.
The store’s Facebook page has about 1,300 members — compared with fewer than 400 at Piedmont Tech and no such Web presence at tech schools in Greenville and Spartanburg. Students can ask questions on that page and get answers in a few minutes, he said.
The rentals started in time for the spring semester, Steele said, and could save students 30 to 75 percent on their books.
“We engage technology and engage students where they are at,” Steele said.
Steele said he sells about 700 laptops and electronic tables for students who are using digital books. He said he wants to sell the device, load a student’s coursework on it, and send him on his way ready for class.
“By 2020, nobody will be carrying any books,” he said. “Ebooks can save students 30 to 60 percent.”
The campus store makes a 9 percent profit on sales, about half the national average. He said tight staffing helps make the numbers work. He has four employees and has a high sales rate for his store’s retail space.
Average sales per square foot nationally amount to $1,050, compared with $2,591 at Tech.
To keep lines at a minimum, Steele has over the past six years decreased the time customers spend buying books for the semester from an average of three hours to 45 minutes.
“When people see a line, they won’t come in,” he said.
The campus’s online store gives students access to the bookstore from home, and pre-orders for books shrink lines, he said. The store takes about 3,500 students orders on books a year.
“We don’t want any roadblocks,” Steele said. “A mom may have only 45 minutes to get her books and get on with life.”