What students may not know when they stack their selections onto one of six busy checkout counters at the UMW Bookstore this week is that a cadre of staff has worked months to keep prices as low as possible even as the costs of college—and textbooks especially—soar.
“It starts in April when book adoptions for the fall semester are due,” said Kathy Sandor, manager of retail operations. That’s when the bookstore begins a vigorous buyback of books on professors’ lists, which they’ll then resell for far less than the original price.
“We can put money back into students’ pockets. It also saves the university shipping costs,” Sandor said.
Staff will then spend the next several months sourcing from used booksellers. Only then will Sandor and her team turn to the publishers for new—and pricier—textbooks to finish stocking shelves.
Mary Washington also has a healthy rental program; students pay an average of around $36 to borrow a textbook for a semester. And more classes than ever participate in “inclusive access,” a program in collaboration with textbook publishers that delivers digital course material to an entire class at a deeply discounted rate.
From 2006 to 2016, consumer prices for college textbooks climbed 88 percent nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By comparison, tuition and fees went up 63 percent and housing rose 51 percent.
So how did UMW’s textbooks stack up in fiscal 2017? Here’s a look at those numbers.
New textbooks sold: 15,551
Average UMW price: $57.37
Industry average: $90
Used textbooks sold: 7,090
Average UMW price: $43.52
Industry average: $58
In addition to textbooks and study aids, the UMW bookstore is also the “nest of Eagle Pride,” selling everything from bottled water, bibs and baby onesies to sweatshirts, stickers and socks emblazoned with the school mascot:
Apparel sold: 16,000 units
Gifts sold: 20,296
Trade books sold: 1,367
And, of course, all profits went straight back to the university, to support the educational environment of academic excellence.