Bookstore may offer scholarships

Since their summer transition to a nonprofit organization, the Portland State Bookstore is looking into offering a scholarship program for students in need.


The bookstore hopes to give out a couple of hundred of the need-based scholarships in an effort to help as many students as possible, according to store manager Ken Brown.


“Individual awards might be small, but we want there to be enough for them so that a student with demonstrated financial need will benefit,” he said, adding that he hopes the new program can be started by January.

The bookstore made the transition Aug. 1. As a co-operative, the bookstore was paying a large amount of corporate income tax. As a nonprofit, that tax status has changed.


“Any benefit on the tax front means that we can pass on those benefits to students,” Brown said.


Reducing textbook prices is one of the bookstore’s top priorities, Brown said. The bookstore lowered its markup by 1 percent in an effort to lower costs.


But one publisher announced that they would be raising its markup by 4 percent. 


One strategy to lower prices, he said, is to have professors negotiate deals with textbook makers. Sometimes this involves ordering an older edition of a text.


As a cooperative, the bookstore had offered a membership for $1, and members could submit their book receipts at the end of the fiscal year to receive a rebate. However, only a small number of members took advantage of the program, he said.


The bookstore has since done away with the rebate program, offering a free membership to students, staff and faculty instead. The first 1,000 students who signed up for a free membership in the “new” nonprofit each received a $5 credit on their membership cards. The membership cards can be used at the bookstore like debit cards. The new membership drive began Sept. 1, and ended Saturday, Oct. 8, but membership remains free to students.


“We’ve still got $2,000 unused on the cards,” Brown said. Members can deposit money on the cards.


Parents also can add money to their children’s cards by calling the bookstore and using their credit card numbers to add credit.


The free membership card is one of a number of changes the bookstore is making, by direction of its board of director. The board consists of five students, four faculty members and two outside members, normally former students.


Membership in the co-op was available to alumni but that is no longer the case in the nonprofit. The 40-percent-off night sale that occurs around Thanksgiving time is a previous membership benefit that will continue. The bookstore also is considering online book sales, with free shipping to members.


An innovation introduced at the end of August is daily buyback, and Brown has instituted methods to prevent daily buyback from becoming a resource for thieves who steal students’ books from unattended backpacks. 


For three or four years, the bookstore has lent big support to PSU Weekend, Oct. 21 ?” 23. The event, now in its 15th year, invites the community on campus for a varied schedule featuring lectures, receptions, sports events and social gatherings.


“The bookstore is the biggest sponsor,” Brown said. “We contribute considerable cash.” The store is exhibiting a table of books by Bruce Feiler, this year’s featured visiting author. Feiler is to appear at a $125 preview night party at Urban Wineworks and will deliver the keynote address at a luncheon Saturday, Oct. 22, in Smith Center Ballroom. Feiler is the best-selling author of “Walking the Bible” and five other books, mainly dealing with the cultural backgrounds of religion.