Bookstore charge option in trouble

James Dyer

The NMU bookstore is looking at making changes to its student charge program after an accumulation of bad debt over the past three semesters.

In the 2009 winter semester, the NMU bookstore allowed students to charge books to their student account. That year the bookstore saw textbook sales increase 8.1 percent from the last year, said bookstore manager Mike Kuzak.

The program has been a great benefit to students and the NMU bookstore, but there have been significant problems with students failing to pay off their student account balance after they leave NMU. To try and save the student charge program, Kuzak has suggested ways to reform the program and cut losses.

“So many students use the charge program, it would be difficult to cut it now. Students really benefit from being able to buy their books earlier,” Kuzak said.

If the bookstore is able to cut some of its bad debt, Kuzak would like to extend the amount of items students can charge to their student account to school supplies as well as books.

“Even though the bookstore stands to lose thousands of dollars in non-paid charges, the sales increase from the option generates enough gross margin dollars to cover losses,” he said.

While the program is very beneficial to students, if bad debt levels stay the same it could create problems for the program in the future, said Gavin Leach, the vice president of finance and administration.

“In every business you sustain bad debt. So far the debt level has been higher than the general university rate,” Leach said.

The charge program has the potential to be positive for everyone, but changes need to be made in order to save it and make sure the bookstore remains a profitable business, Leach said. If bad debt percentages continue to accumulate, the bookstore will have no choice but to get rid of the program, he said.

“The bookstore needs to remain entirely self sufficient. We’ll do what we can to make it succeed,” Leach said.

The bookstore is now exploring ways to penalize those who do not pay off the books charged to their student account.