The University of Houston started this semester requiring students on its book-loan program to purchase text books exclusively from the UH campus bookstore, managed by Barnes & Noble. The College Store, an off-campus bookstore, wasn't too happy about the decision.
We figured that the university made this move to save students money, because, surely, the school could provide textbooks at the lowest prices. So we worked up a random schedule for the fall semester to compare book costs, enrolling in BIOL 1334, COMM 1301, MATH 3331, and SPAN 1501.
Total from Barnes & Noble: $563.80 (new), $422.85 (used); College Store: $536.50 (new), $403 (used). That's only an average savings of $23.75, and even though it's been awhile since Hair Balls was in college, we remember buying a lot of beer for $20.
Matt Bublituz has managed the College Store for about two years, and says the store has always worked with the university's book-loan program. A student would swipe his student ID to buy books, and the College Store would bill the university at the end of each month. After Bublituz found out his store wasn't part of the book-loan program this semester, he requested a copy of the university's contract with Barnes & Noble but hasn't received it.
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"We had no communication with the university," he says. "So we're not sure why we're not part of the program or even part of the discussion. It's going to hurt."
The College Store made about $100,000 a year from the book-loan program, Bublituz says, adding that the internet already has bookstores "fighting for every student and every dollar." He doesn't agree with the university requiring students to spend money at Barnes & Noble, and the College Store has started its own loan program. With a checking account and credit card, students can get books on loan until they get their financial aid checks.
"We want to give them options to spend their money with us and get a cheaper text book," Bublituz says.
A representative from the university wasn't immediately available to talk about the book-loan program, but we'll be sure to update when we here from someone.