The cost of college: Barnes & Noble supply prices too high for students

By: Duke Staff 

This is an editorial piece that does not reflect the views of Duquesne University

Don’t shop at the campus bookstore.

If you’re a student, you already know there are much better (and cheaper) places to buy your textbooks than the campus bookstore. Amazon, Ebay and even dubiously legal digital download sites are all options for people who want to avoid dropping hundreds of dollars on books.

But, contrary to its name, the Barnes & Noble bookstore on Fifth Avenue sells more than just books — it can be a convenient place to buy school supplies for students living on campus.

Convenient? Yes. Affordable? No. A quick perusal of the school supplies available on the bottom floor of the bookstore reveals $8 three-ring binders and $6 notebooks. Everything from clothing hangers to batteries to notecards is more expensive than students might be used to paying at their local Office Max or Wal-Mart.

For students who are stuck on campus without a car, the Barnes & Noble store is one of very few options for purchasing school supplies. Students can walk to a CVS store downtown for pens and notebooks, but the selection is limited.

If the need is not urgent, students can wait until the weekend and take a 30-minute Loop Bus ride to Target for binders, batteries and highlighters. But if your professor demands that you have a three-ring binder by Friday’s class, you’ll probably be tempted to cough up the $8 at B&N.

“Well,” you might console yourself, “all college bookstores are pricey.” There’s just no avoiding it, right? Wrong. You don’t even have to go far; just take a short trip out to Oakland. Somehow, the University of Pittsburgh’s bookstore manages to sell the same size plastic binders for less than $4. A 10-pack of pens is less than $3.

The Duquesne bookstore has a soft monopoly on school supplies because there is no real competition close by. The only way to incentivize the store to lower its prices is to shop elsewhere until the store is forced to make supplies less expensive.

Take advantage of sites like Amazon.com and Walmart.com, where you can order supplies at affordable rates and have them shipped to campus. Take a few extra minutes and walk to the Market Square CVS. If your family lives close by, ask you parents to bring you supplies the next time they visit.

It might seem like an inconvenience, but it could save you money in the weeks and months ahead.

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