Bookstore profits: Where does the money go?

By By Carlos Mayorga

By Carlos Mayorga

As Fall Semester draws nearer, students may cringe at the thought of spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks. But as they prepare to fork over hard-earned cash, some may wonder where exactly their money is going.

Through the end of May 2007, in the fiscal year ending the last day of June, University Bookstore textbook sales amounted to $9.2 million, said Norm Chambers, vice president of auxiliary services at the U.

The campus store earns an average of 4 to 5 percent annual profit, but it is really not a profit, Chambers said. All the money goes into a bond fund and is used for campus projects and maintenance, except some of the cash, which is used for bookstore staffing and upkeep, the rest goes into the bond system, he said.

“Once that money from the bookstore goes into the bond system, it’s commingled with other funds from other auxiliary services,” said Earl Clegg, director of the U Bookstore.

Auxiliary services include commuter services, housing operations, Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Huntsman Center and the Union.

Administrators at the U then decide what campus projects are in need of money from the bond system, such as repaving parking lots, maintaining the campus shuttle system and upkeep of student housing, Chambers said.

If profits from the bookstore didn’t go into the bond system, the U would have to get money for those projects from other sources — possibly by raising student tuition or fees, Clegg said.

But textbook sales are dropping slightly, lowering bookstore revenue.

Just a year before, textbooks sales amounted to $9.4 million. Chambers said that decline in textbook revenues over the last few years is happening as more students buy online, but declining enrollment is also to blame.

“Textbook sales are driven by enrollment, and enrollment hasn’t been growing much for the past few years,” he said.

Total U Bookstore revenue through the end of May was $21.2 million, up from the year before, when the total revenue was $19.9 million. Chambers said that although textbook sales are declining, computer sales are mainly responsible for the increase.

Harold Henderson, a senior majoring in economics, said that during the past school year, he has spent almost $400 on textbooks, but has saved hundreds more. He used textbooks on reserve in the library and bought some of his books online to save money.

During the past school year, he bought a genetics book for $70 online that cost $140 new at the campus store, he said.

“We’re concerned about textbook prices, too,” Chambers said. “We found the best thing we can do to help our students is to emphasize used textbooks.”

Used textbooks are sold for 75 percent of the new price. If the textbook is going to be used the following semester, it can be sold back to the campus store for 50 percent of the new, Chambers said.

“That works out to be a very substantial savings,” he said, adding that 43 percent of the textbooks sold last year in the campus store were used.

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Lennie Mahler

Brett Tingey shops for textbooks at the University Bookstore on July 23.