One of the many options that students are offered when it comes to purchasing course materials for college classes is the on-campus bookstore; whether it be at a community college or a university, the way business is conducted differs based on the store itself.
In the case of LCCC, the on-campus bookstore is contracted by BBA Solutions, a third-party company that is not part of the institution.
In contrast, the University Store of the University of Wyoming is institutionally operated, meaning the university itself owns the business, according to the University Store manager, Misty Eaton.
Considering that the ownership situations between the LCCC and UW stores are different, there are also differences in how money moves through them.
Since the University Store is owned by UW, its sales go back into the institution. The same can be said about the LCCC Bookstore even though it’s contracted out to a for-profit company.
Chelsea Hansen, the LCCC Bookstore manager, said that 10 percent of sales go back into the college for various fund accounts including scholarships and building projects.
Along with that 10 percent, Hansen said that they do giveaways for students of things such as LCCC gear and electronics.
There’s also a difference in how the materials are presented online. While the University Store shows students the prices of the same product from other retailers such as Amazon, the LCCC Bookstore only provides its price.
UW “works with a third party vendor that interfaces through the store’s website so students can see multiple purchasing options (rental, new, used, and digital) from the store and by other marketplace vendors such as Alibris, Abebooks, etc,” Eaton said through the UW public relations office.
Hansen said that the “compare sites” that UW offers leaves the opportunity for the university to lose money.
“When a student opts to purchase that book elsewhere, the school is not receiving any of that money,” Hansen said. “So, students in UW’s case opt to buy their books from Amazon rather than from UW, that’s money the university is losing to a billion dollar company that couldn’t care less about Laramie, Wyoming. Amazon isn’t contributing money back to the school.”
In terms of price setting, the LCCC Bookstore and the University Store differ in approach but end up with the same result.
“When we get our book adoption (from teachers), we set our prices, we actually set them in comparison to the online marketplace,” Hansen said. “So, we’re having competitive prices with what Amazon, Chegg, Half.com, with what they’re doing.”
According to Eaton, the University Store employs “the services of a third party vendor that monitors the online marketplace and assists in the setting of prices.”
Hansen said that BBA Solutions tries to stay as competitive as it can with the knowledge that it has to pay employees and that it is run by a business that is trying to make a profit.
“We can’t always win on every price,” Hansen said. “But, we try to be pretty darn close. On average, I think a student at LCCC spends $250 a semester compared to the national average. A lot of institutional stores, they’re spending close to $1,000 a semester. So, compared to the national average, we try to keep it pretty affordable as best as we can.”
Even though there are many differences between the LCCC Bookstore and the University Store, both provide employment to students and both try to beat their competition through competitive pricing, customer-oriented service and knowledgeable staff.