SMU students pay more for textbooks

King's, Dal students get 5 per cent discount at the co-op bookstore

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Saint Mary's business student Brendan Price estimates he could have saved $300 on textbooks if the university’s bookstore offered the same five-per-cent discount as the bookstores at King’s and Dal. (Photo: Dave Lalonde)

In five years studying business at Saint Mary's University, Brendan Price racked up a lot of student debt. Tuition is expensive, but five years' worth of textbooks adds up, too.

Price estimates he spends about $1,200 per year on textbooks - or about $6,000 by the time he graduates.

The co-op bookstore at the University of King's College has a discount system in place to help students with these costs. For every dollar spent, five cents is credited to a student's account. Once the student's credit reaches $20, it can be redeemed at the store. Essentially it's a five per cent discount.

SMU students don't get a break

If the Saint Mary's had a similar system, Price would be $300 richer.

"Any kind of discount's a good thing. Three hundred bucks next to what I owe may not seem like much, but it's still a lot of money," he says.

Saint Mary's offers discounts to students, staff members and alumni, but only for non-book purchases.

The King's bookstore website says the King's Student Union came up with the idea in 2006, when students were "dissatisfied with the price of books for required courses."

Since the store was a student union project, it had to be a non-profit organization. The union wanted students to feel involved in the bookstore, so they settled on the idea of a co-op. Students pay one dollar to become part-owners of the store, giving them the discount.

Carolyn Gillis, the store's manager, says the discount is a way of thanking students.

But the King's store contributes more to students than just discounted textbooks, she says.

"We take great delight in offering interesting books to read, philosopher dolls to entertain and supporting the university community by offering author events as well as selling books written by faculty and alumni."

The Dalhousie University bookstore is owned by its school, but it has a discount similar to the King's store. Five per cent of what is spent at the bookstore gets refunded to the student's DalCard, which can be used for future purchases.

Don Harper, the manager of the Saint Mary's bookstore, says that like at Dalhousie and King's, textbooks are sold at their suggested list price.

"Like most university bookstores in Canada, we are owned by the institution and any surplus profit is directly absorbed in the university account."

Price thinks the Saint Mary's bookstore should offer a discount to match those at King's and Dalhousie.

"I don't see why they get to save and we don't .... We just give Saint Mary's more money."

 

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