For those aren’t starting off their very first year at NYU, the semesterly visit to the university’s Bookstore on Broadway usually comes with very few surprises. That was until students walked through the grand doors this fall to find the space completely made over.
Rejigged from previous years, students are now welcomed with one designated area containing all textbooks, a new pick-up station that can process seven times as many online book and packet orders as before and more cash registers available to expedite checkout.
But likely the most noticeable change for students is independent of the store’s physical layout: Many course materials in the newly renovated Bookstore are now cheaper.
These changes happened after NYU hired Follett Higher Education — the largest operator of campus stores in North America — last year to take over operations of the Bookstore. University officials did so as part of NYU’s affordability initiative, thinking Follett could offer books at lower prices.
As part of the agreement, Follett paid in full for renovations to the Bookstore that it had included in its proposal for the lease, according to NYU Director of Executive Communications Shonna Keogan.
One of the key reasons for the renovation was “[t]o improve the overall customer experience with improved lighting, signage, more cashiers and a more comfortable area for trade books and presentations,” Keogan told WSN in an email.
With regards to textbook prices, the plan to save students money seems to be working.
“Since Follett took over last fall, they’ve been able to provide a much larger inventory of low-cost options for students,” Keogan said in an email to WSN. “Previously, many of our students were buying expensive books they used only once, which cost, on average, $53. With Follett, students are able to save up to 65 [percent] on new textbooks. Moreover, Follett tripled the number of used books, and also facilitated a more efficient book rental system. As a result, students bought 32 [percent] fewer new textbooks and rentals went up by 945 [percent].”
These reductions translated to noticeable savings for students.
“Overall, the average amount spent per book went down by 23 [percent],” she said. “Most importantly, students saved $1,200,000 last year.”
Even so, these savings are only 60 percent of the goal set for student savings last year.
“Based on our national rental inventory, digital content and technology, and purchasing position with publishers, we expect to deliver a total savings of approximately $2,000,000 to NYU students for the 2017-2018 academic year,” Follett President Clay Wahl said in a press release announcing the lease last year.
Nonetheless, many students were pleasantly surprised with the changes that were made to the Bookstore.
“It’s very nice and efficient,” said Silver School of Social Work graduate student Ashley Livitz. “I think when it’s really crowded in here the lines [still] move super fast.”
The renovations also created new job openings, given the increase in the number of cash registers. To fill these positions, Follett hired new employees to work temporary positions in the start of the year, when many students are buying books.
“Especially on move-in day, you have all these freshmen coming in and all their parents are so excited to buy all this [merchandise],” LS sophomore and current Bookstore employee Rebecca Samet told WSN. “They’re going to need a lot of people to fill those positions, and ultimately there’s a lot of long lines. Especially when the semester started, obviously a lot of people are buying books they need.”
Samet says the Bookstore still has positions to fill, one of which may be hers.
“They’re definitely still hiring more people despite a rumor going around this week that for all the temporary positions that were hired, including myself, the next week or two could be our last,” she said. “So I think it’s really interesting how they’re apparently hiring more people despite there being a lot already. Obviously, I knew going into the job that it would be a temporary job, and I knew maybe perhaps by the end of September I’d be parting from that job.”
Employees that previously worked at the Bookstore were not fired from their positions when management changed hands.
“The same agreement stipulates that all employees would remain employees at the same pay-rates and with comparable benefits,” Keogan said. “Associates are still NYU employees. Managers have been transferred over to Follett, and are now Follett employees. No employees involuntarily lost their jobs.”
Email Yotam Ponte at [email protected].