Amber Lipsey/Courier Campus bookstore employee Phyllis Johnson, left, rings up purchases for Biotech student Sarah Nguyen at the PCC bookstore on Monday, March 5, 2018. The Board of Trustees recently approved a five-year contract with Follett Higher Education Services to begin managing the campus bookstore.
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In exchange for a $750,000 annual fee, the Pasadena City College Bookstore will now be run by a private company for the next five years.

“The purpose of a bookstore is to provide services where students can pay significantly lower rates, can lease textbooks, can purchase cheaper textbooks, or may not even have to purchase textbooks due to open educational resources that exist today,” said Rajen Vurdien, Superintendent-President of PCC.

During their session on Feb. 22, the Board of Trustees approved outsourcing the management of PCC’s bookstore to Follett Higher Education Services.

PCC’s administration is expecting that this agreement will benefit the students.

“The company [Follett] also offers price matching for the lowest price for students, there are year-round buybacks and there are scholarships available to students,” said Cynthia Olivo, Vice President of Student Services. “This is a great move in an effort to ensure that we have maintained affordability for our students.”

Due to a combination of Follett’s bulk purchasing agreements with publishers and retail experience, Follett is expected to be able to reduce operational cost and hence lead to cheaper supplies for students, while increasing the bookstore’s profits.

In addition, Follett is offering textbook rentals and a large inventory of open educational resources that faculty can adapt to reduce the cost of books for students.

According to an internal memo released by Pasadena City College to its staff, the fees from the bookstore lease will continue to be allocated to the Student Activity Fund, as well as to fund the college’s general fund.

“In the first year, the college will receive $950,000 guaranteed payment from the company [Follett] that we are moving forward with,” said Richard Storti, Vice President of Business and Administration Services.

The partnership agreement is for a period of five years, with a first-year minimum lease fee set to $750,000 plus a $200,000 signing bonus. In years two through five, the minimum lease fee is set to $750,000. Over the past few years under PCC’s internal management, the bookstore has brought in an annual profit of around $100,000 to $200,000.

As part of the agreement, Follett has also obligated itself to spend $200,000 to remodel the bookstore’s retail space.

Follett currently manages approximately 1,200 bookstores at colleges and universities across the United States. Some of the top universities in the country currently have bookstore management agreements with Follett, including Stanford University, University of California Berkeley and the University of Southern California.

The Board of Trustees approved the process of finding a bookstore management company to run the bookstore during their session on Oct. 18, 2017. Four bookstore management firms were solicited by Pasadena City College’s administration, and two firms submitted bids.

Follett meets all the requests for proposal requirements and was also considered the “highest rated, responsive, responsible, qualified proposer,” according to documents submitted by Pasadena City College staff to the Board of Trustees.

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