Elgin CC bookstore (IL) could award financial aid
Is this the first episode of the used book scandal?
Reported by Emily Krone in the Daily Herald
The bookstore at Elgin Community College clears more than half a million dollars annually, subsidizes other campus operations and maintains nearly $1 million in reserves.
Those profits come largely at the expense of students, who shell out nearly as much for textbooks as for a semester of tuition.
The average community college student in Illinois spends between $941 and $1,027 annually on textbooks, according to a 2006 study by the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
Annual tuition for the 2007-2008 school year is $2,370.
At those rates, textbooks increase the cost of attending ECC by 38 percent.
One ECC trustee says the college shouldn’t be leaning on students, who are buying books they have to have.
Last month, Trustee Robert Getz cast the sole dissenting vote against a measure to transfer bookstore profits to prop up other campus operations.
Trustees had told U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin they would do everything possible to control the cost of textbooks, Getz said.
Pumping up textbook costs to pay for other campus needs directly contradicts the college’s public commitment to keeping textbooks as affordable as possible, Getz said at the June meeting.
For years, bookstore earnings have subsidized other campus projects, including ECC’s new WiFi system, the Visual and Performing Arts Center and the Child Care Center for children of ECC students and employees.
In fiscal year 2006, the college took $347,000 from the bookstore for other uses.
The remaining $230,000 went into the bookstore’s reserves, which now stand at nearly $1 million.
The campus bookstore prices textbooks competitively, said ECC Vice President of Finance Carole Robertson.
If the books weren’t competitively priced, students would buy them elsewhere, Robertson said. And if the profits from the bookstore dried up, students would pay the price in the form of higher tuition, she said.
“If the subsidy did not come from the bookstore, the subsidy would … come from tuition,” Robertson said.
ECC officials declined to disclose the average markup for textbooks, citing competitive concerns.
The 2006 budget shows ECC took in $3.88 million and spent $3.3 million on materials, supplies and employee salaries and benefits — for a 15 percent profit.
The average campus bookstore marks up textbooks by about 25æpercent, according to a study by the Public Interest Research Group.
Not all of the bookstore’s profits come from textbooks.
The ECC bookstore also sells college merchandise, snacks and supplies.
Board Chairman Phyllis Folarin said she is concerned about the prohibitive cost of textbooks.
“But one of the things that gives me some comfort is the subsidized funds are not only coming from textbooks, but from a lot of other things, like T-shirts and candy. And students and staff all contribute to buying these,” she said.
Most consumer advocate groups blame publishing houses for the prohibitive cost of textbooks.
They long have criticized publishers for deliberately killing off the used book market, using tactics such as frequent, unnecessary revisions to textbooks that render old versions obsolete.
ECC officials also have targeted their criticism at the publishing industry.
They have lobbied state and national representatives and negotiated with vendors to end certain practices that drive up the cost to students, Robertson said.
“At this point every college in the country is looking at the price of textbooks,” Robertson said. “It’s on the national agenda.”