Follett Higher Education Group will take over full operations of the University Store starting July 1. The contract was finalized with Cal Poly Corporation April 21, Cal Poly Corporation Executive Director Lorlie Leetham said.
According to Leetham, the Corporation also handed over some Campus Dining management services to Chartwells Higher Education — an international university food provider — in late January.
Follett will take over management of the physical Cal Poly University Stores — both on campus and in downtown San Luis Obispo — as well as the online store. The company operates more than 1,200 campus stores around the country.
Leetham said the change is due in part to challenges in the campus bookstore industry.
“You have Amazon, you have virtual store providers, you have a lot of compliance and legal issues around textbook affordability and needing to provide the best type of resources and information to our students,” Leetham said. “Our hope and a belief are a company like Follett, who we have contracted with, will bring 140 years of experience.”
Follett manages about half of the bookstores across the California State University (CSU) system, making Cal Poly the 12th university to fall under their management. The company also runs the Allan Hancock College Bookstore in Santa Maria.
Follett agreed to keep current employees and their current benefits fixed for a three-year contract. After that, it will be up to the company to change or keep current employees.
“We negotiated a three-year agreement for our staff, meaning there will be guaranteed employment for three years,” she said. “Now, that doesn’t mean they won’t retain their employment for a lot longer. This means they are guaranteed their current rate of pay with comp up packages for compensations and benefits so it comes out comparable [to] where they are today.”
Chartwells Higher Education has already begun managing some aspects of Campus Dining, but not all.
“Our core function will remain very similar as it did before; we have to manage those contracts,” Leetham said. “We still own Campus Dining. We still do post award sponsored research. We still provide fiscal and human resource support for agriculture programs; we operate conference event planning. We hold a number of licenses and agreements for the university and I think there will be new things coming down the pipe for the corporation.”
According to a Mustang News article, this transition will not affect Campus Dining employees.
University spokesperson Matt Lazier said the university has no additional comment beyond what was said by the Corporation.
Words from the new management
Follet regional manager Susanne Duits said the company has always been fascinated by Cal Poly and is happy to be a part of the Mustang community.
“It is one of the premiere [CSU] schools as well as one of the premiere schools in the entire state,” Duits said. “We are really proud and fortunate to be selected as the operator of the bookstore.”
As part of the contract signed with the Corporation, Duits said the University Store on campus will be remodeled, but no true plan has been drawn up. However, the current technology center in the store will be expanded to fit the expanding demand for those resources.
Aditionally, Duits said students will start to see more affordable textbook prices than currently offered, based on another part of the contract.
“That’s one of the core values that we have is affordable materials, whether we are working with the affordable learning solutions on campus through the Chancellor’s Office,” Druits said. “We got a lot of solutions in addition to rentals that will hopefully drive down the cost of course materials.”