CEDAR FALLS — A request from the University of Northern Iowa to pay $2.4 million for a privately owned bookstore that has been serving its Cedar Falls campus for 80 years won the approval Wednesday of the Board of Regents.
Because UNI plans to run University Book and Supply as a nonprofit, the institution won’t incur additional cost to operate it, administrators told regents during their regular board meeting.
“So this will be a profitable event?” Regent Larry McKibben asked. “They’ll be no additional costs to the university?”
“That’s the intention,” Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Michael Hagar said.
The sale includes all the bookstore’s assets, including the Hawkeye Bookstore at Hawkeye Community College. The cost doesn’t include the value of textbooks and other merchandise estimated to be worth $575,000.
The board additionally agreed Wednesday to waive a section of Iowa Code that would have barred UNI from continuing to operate Hawkeye Bookstore after the sale goes through, which is expected in March. The university argued disrupting the Waterloo bookstore’s operation would pose an undue hardship on the community college.
Right now, UNI doesn’t own or operate its own bookstore — unlike University of Iowa and Iowa State University. But UNI is looking to enter the bookselling business at a time of significant industry change, as options for digital books are forcing stores to diversify inventory or even close altogether.
UNI officials have argued students will benefit from the transaction, as they will continue to have local access to textbooks and course materials and see “at least a 7 percent reduction in what they pay for textbooks from the bookstore,” according to a message to faculty and staff from Hagar.
The university also is pursuing plans to make purchasing more convenient, according to Hagar’s message, which did not provide details.
“The purchase is being funded with a loan, which will be paid back from bookstore operations,” he wrote. “No general education funds are being utilized for this transaction.”