Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone to privatize bookstore

By Matthew Artz, Oakland Tribune.

Saturday, November 13, 2010—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—Ohlone College is turning over its money-losing bookstore to a company that has guaranteed the university at least $225,000 annually during the next five years.

The Ohlone board of directors voted 6-1 Wednesday to contract with Follett Higher Education Group, a Chicago-based company that runs the bookstores at UC Berkeley and Stanford.

Ohlone's bookstore lost $76,000 last fiscal year with total sales decreasing by more than 25 percent as more students looked online for cheaper textbooks, officials said.

Ohlone is one of a growing number of schools to privatize its bookstore. About 45 percent of the nation's 4,000 college bookstores are managed by outside companies, according to the school.

Ohlone also has privatized its cafeteria and child-care services.

Under the five-year deal, Follett will guarantee the university at least $225,000 a year with additional payments depending on sales; a $10,000 annual donation to the student government; textbook scholarships worth $5,000; $25,000 in store improvements; and a bonus $75,000 payment to the district.

Follett also will purchase the bookstore's existing inventory and has guaranteed not to increase the markup for new textbooks. Current bookstore workers either will be employed by Follett or will be guaranteed jobs elsewhere with the school.

Follett purchases books in large quantities, which should help it bring down costs, said Trustee John Weed, who compared Ohlone's bookstore to a small independent company going up against the big chains.

"That's why a lot of the little bookstores are out of business," he said.

Trustee Greg Bonaccorsi cast the only dissenting vote. He noted that a committee charged with reviewing privatizing the bookstore narrowly voted to recommend against privatization. He also said that although Follett has said it would continue employing students, it is not contractually obligated to do so.

"I'm generally concerned about privatization in public institutions," Bonaccorsi said. "If the public entity is able to provide the service effectively, I don't see the need for a private organization to come in. "… You tend to lose your local flavor when you do this kind of thing."

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