Over the summer Barnes and Noble took over operation of the UConn bookstore, which had been the UConn Co-op for over 40 years. The student body was assured that the prices of books would not rise with this change, and this has held more or less true for the fall semester. However, what many students have noticed is that the price of many other items has increased. Items from school supplies to UConn apparel have increased across the board.
When the UConn Co-op was here, their prices were determined by operating costs alone. The Co-op was nonprofit, and so their prices were not intended to augment paychecks but rather pay the cost of running the store. Enter Barnes and Noble, a large for-profit corporation that has to pay to rent the physical building (the Co-op did not). It should be no surprise that prices were increased to meet these new parameters. The change in textbook prices would have been met with scrutiny and a likely backlash, while the prices of other items would not be seen as being of equal importance.
Thus, the prices for pens, pencils, calculators, and many other items have generally increased. This puts more financial burden on the students of the university, who are already facing steep tuition increases over the next several years. With the new bookstore being the most convenient place for students to pick up supplies they have a soft monopoly, with no other places on campus having the same selection. Barnes and Noble can set the prices, and there is no incentive for them to bring them down unless students start going to a store like Walmart or Staples when they have the time and force them to be competitive.
These price increases are simply unfair to the students of UConn as they are aimed only at making a profit. The Co-op never increased prices out of greed because there was no cause. As a non-profit, they donated thousands to student organizations and helped fund scholarships. The Co-op gave back to the students, and was actively involved in their needs. They even donated $250,000 of their remaining funds to affordable textbook initiatives. Barnes and Nobles has one concern, and that is profit. UConn is a business venture for them. Unless the store begins to care as much about the students of UConn as they do about their bottom line they will never live up to the standard set by the UConn Co-op.
Jacob Kowalski is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.