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Business Officer Magazine

Vantage Point

Spotlight on an institution in one of the constituent groups: small institutions, community colleges, comprehensive/doctoral institutions, or research universities

By Stacy Carrick

Historic Textbook Rental Program at Nine Decades

In 1987, making headlines as an "Electronic Campus" really said something. For Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, that title was only part of a long history of ensuring that students have all the tools they need to be successful in the classroom. Not only was Northwest the first public university in the country to provide a fully networked computer in every residence hall room and faculty office, but such forward-thinking services started long before.

For example, for the past 90 years—beginning in 1922—Northwest has provided rental of all primary textbooks to its students. The textbook rental program continues to thrive today for our more than 7,200 students, even as it evolves to include digital delivery options.

Easy, Economical, Efficient

Beverly Schenkel, Northwest's dean of enrollment management, sings the praises of textbook rental, calling it a "key differentiator." When coupled with the laptop computer the university provides for each student, the program serves as an important recruiting tool and sets the institution apart from its peers.

Schenkel says students and their parents appreciate the benefits of the textbook rental program as well as the convenience factor. Between the university-run Textbook Services office and the contracted bookstore provider, Barnes and Noble, students don't have to look any further than the Maryville campus for all their textbook needs.

The cost to students has always been minimal. According to the 1922-23 college bulletin, the "College Book Store will rent to students all textbooks which may be required for their work in the college. ... The rental will be $3 for one quarter, or $4 for two quarters." Forty years later, in 1962, the textbook rental fee was included either in a student's registration fee or—for students taking fewer than 12 credit hours—in a $1 fee per course.

Today's undergraduate students pay just $6 per credit hour, resulting in their saving nearly $1,200 a year compared to the costs for purchasing the books. The total fees collected allow Northwest to completely manage the program, from purchasing textbooks to providing the labor necessary to support the entire operation.

Northwest Missouri State University undergraduate students pick up prebundled textbooks at the Textbook Services office.

Meticulous, Detailed Management

Teri Tobin, Northwest's Textbook Services manager for the past 25 years, has the task of ensuring that more than 52,000 textbooks each year reach students' hands. Tobin works with faculty members and publishers to acquire the textbooks, which are typically purchased on a three-year cycle. A team of student-employees assists Tobin in hand-stamping and -marking each book, entering inventory information into the computer system, organizing the books according to each student's schedule, and bundling them for pickup. The process is so refined that students can pick up all their primary textbooks and be on their way in less than five minutes!

At the end of the trimester, students simply drop off their textbooks at Textbook Services. The office sells discontinued textbooks at a discounted rate. And books that are not repurchased are later sold to wholesalers or recycled on site, where they are turned into wood pellets that are used to heat and cool the campus.

Scott Yocom, manager of the on-campus Bearcat Bookstore, says his employer, Barnes and Noble, operates nearly 650 college bookstores nationwide, and Northwest is one of only two stores that does not sell primary textbooks to undergraduate students. The store does stock traditional items and is increasing its offerings of electronics and movies. All supplemental textbooks, as well as those for the graduate level, can be purchased from or resold to the bookstore at competitive rates.

Northwest is proud of its long history of focusing on student success, and is also committed to adapting to a digital society. The institution recently piloted an e-book program and continues to explore opportunities to deliver textbooks—and the content within—in a manner suited to today's students as well as to future generations.

SUBMITTED BY Stacy Carrick, vice president of finance, Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville.

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