JOHNSTOWN - Fulton-Montgomery Community College President Dustin Swanger announced the Fulmont College Association has signed a letter of intent to partner with a book vendor to manage and operate the college bookstore.
Swanger said book distributor Follett Higher Education Group will partner with the association, and by the end of November, the group should take over the operation of the FM Bookstore, which soon will be called the Raider Trader.
The association has been operating the bookstore independently for years, but the increase in cost for college textbooks made it difficult for the college to save students money, Swanger said.
He said Follett has been servicing the store for years with textbooks.
"We selected Follett because their business strategy and attention to students," Swanger said. "Another reason is we can continue our brand, so the bookstore will be known as the Raider Trader, and we are looking forward to doing new things and expanding our college store."
He said the way a college store operates has changed at a rapid pace over the last 10 years with new types of electronic media, text and what is expected from a college store.
"Across the country, textbooks are ridiculously expensive, and across the country, stores have been running textbook rental programs, and we have not as an independent store," Swanger said. "By having this partnership, starting in January, we will have the opportunity for students to rent a textbook rather than buy it."
He said this will save students 40 percent to 50 percent of the cost of the textbook.
The college also plans to change and redesign the college bookstore. The new partnership will allow the plan to move forward more quickly because as part of the deal, Follett has agreed to contribute to the cost, said Vice President for Administration and Finance David Morrow.
The bookstore is currently in the basement of the College Union. The plan calls for moving the bookstore to a larger space now used as a trustee board meeting room in that building.
A larger bookstore could have more retail space for general supplies, FM memorabilia, shelves on wheels for the short book season and a technical support area for students having trouble with their laptops, college officials said.
Swanger previously said the present bookstore would become a meeting space for clubs on campus.
According to the college master plan, the bookstore transition was planned to begin in 2017, with construction by 2018. With the new partnership, Morrow said the store could be done around February 2016, barring setbacks.
The association runs auxiliary businesses on campus, including student housing, the meal plan, the Student Government Association and the bookstore.
Morrow said part of the partnership also includes the association receiving some of the commission for sales at the store.
Swanger said Follett has more than 1,000 college stores across the country. Because they don't use Follett in the names of the stores, Follett often goes unnoticed.
"You have probably been in one and didn't even notice," Swanger told the college trustees at a meeting last week.
Levi Pascher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.