At CCC, a break on book prices

May 23, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

For his first semester last September, Donnie Browning laid out $216 for textbooks at Carroll Community College.

"I had heard they were expensive, but I still didn't expect it to be that high," said Mr. Browning.

The next semester, thanks to a cooperative book exchange, he got all the books he needed for a net cost of about $5.

Like most students at the college, Mr. Browning now sells his old books and buys used ones at the cooperative exchange run by students and two instructors.

They use a former storeroom in the main building's basement, down the hall from the regular college-run bookstore that sells new books.

In December, Mr. Browning took most of his books to the exchange, which gave him half what he paid for those volumes -- about $70. When he started again in January, he bought all the textbooks he needed at the exchange, for about $75.

The book exchange not only helps students save money; it helps those who run it get experience in making money.

And it raises $10,000 to $12,000 in scholarship funds for the Student Government Association.

The exchange started with two business instructors, Mary Ann Swindlehurst and Kate Demarest, who set it up as a cooperative.

Students who work on the exchange get a share of the "profits" in proportion to the number of hours they logged.

At first, it was Ms. Swindlehurst and Ms. Demarest who put in most of the hours, but in the past three years, students have begun to do most of the work.

"It has become what it was supposed to be, a student-run cooperative," said Ms. Demarest, assistant professor of marketing.

The co-op gets cash to pay students for books at the end of each semester by taking out a $15,000 loan from the college's business office, Ms. Swindlehurst said.

When the workers sell the books the next semester (some are bought and sold during the summer also), they mark them up $4 over what was paid for them.

Of that money, $1 goes into a profit-sharing pool to be divided among student workers later. Their pay usually works out to $6 an hour, Ms. Demarest said. An additional $1 goes to cover costs such as stickers and losses, such as books they can't resell.

The remaining $2 goes into the scholarship fund. The $10,000 to $12,000 usually raised is the primary source of money for the Student Government Association scholarships, Ms. Demarest said.

"It works out real well for me," said Judy Franz, a student pursuing a degree in social work, who found a math book for half price at the co-op Friday. "Usually I can find the books I need."

Once, she was able to sell a math book for the same price she paid for it -- $20. But other times, she has to buy a new book because the old one is no longer used by the professor or has been updated.

Still, she usually spends no more than $50 a semester on books, compared with her outlay of $120 the first semester.

Ms. Demarest said that to her knowledge, student-run cooperatives are rare among colleges.

At most schools, she said, the commercial bookstores or other profit-making companies buy and sell used books. They generally pay 25 percent of what students paid for them and then sell them for 75 percent of original price, she said.

Students Bonny Dudash, Bobbi Ring and John Hunt have led the exchange this year.

Ms. Ring relishes the buying, selling and accounting involved with the exchange. She is a mother of two who goes to school part-time, and she prefers the book exchange and other volunteer activities to working a full-time job.

"I've already come up with the idea that when I graduate from here, I want to go to [a four-year college] and set up the same thing," Ms. Ring said.

"She's got the entrepreneurial spirit," Ms. Demarest said.

Ms. Dudash said she probably won't use the experience in her career plans -- she's a pediatric nurse at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore and is taking accounting courses at Carroll.

"I just believe in it," Ms. Dudash said. "Our goal is to help the students by having books that are less expensive."

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