Between the cafeteria, vending machines and bookstore, Elgin Community College has hundreds of items available for ECC students to purchase. Whether it’s a textbook, laptop or some mozzarella sticks, ECC has it, but have you ever wondered how the school decides on the pricing for these items?
“We take the cost of the product, what are distributors charging us and we adjust that according to our parameters and goals that are set through our budgets,” said Richard Essegian, the Director of Food Services at ECC.
“We also have to factor in the cost of labor and the cost of supplies too. There’s the cost of paper goods, napkins, all that good stuff,” said Kelly Strossner, Managing Director of Retail Operations.
Despite what some students may think, the school does not aim to make money off these purchases.
“Our directive in foodservice is to break even,” Strossner said. “We’re supposed to make enough money to cover all of our expenses.”
Items are decided based on what students want and can afford.
“ I think we’re putting out a quality product,” Essegian said. “Our entrees, we don’t change the price, it’s the same price all year long. We have to buy items that fit into that menu pricing so that we’re not changing prices all the time.”
Menus are figured out in advance, but there are always staples in the cafeteria.
“Me and the two chefs sit down the week before and we go through the menus and they put together some menus and I’ll approve them,” Essegian said. “We have a standard bar, our chicken tender, that’s our most popular, our chicken wings, we have that schedule already preset. It helps us with ordering.”
Prices are determined similarly in the bookstore.
“We’ll look at costs, then labor,” Strossner said. “So the expectation is that you’ll make enough to cover your expenses and the book prices are so high because they’re expensive. A lot is determined by the cost of the publisher.”
So how do prices compare? Is it cheaper, the same price or more expensive to buy your items from the bookstore?
Starting in the front, the ECC bookstore sells a ten-pack of Papermate blue pens for $2.49. Amazon has the exact same pack for $5.47, Walmart has them for $0.97 and Target has a 12 count of the same style of the pen for $3.99.
In the front, there’s also a six-pack of Sharpie Highlighters for $4.99. Amazon has the same pack for $5.78, Walmart has them for $5.86 and Target has a 10 pack of the same kind for $4.19.
Now moving onto the textbooks, which were chosen at random, the bookstore has used and new copies of Probation and Parole by Howard Abadinsky. New copies cost $140 to buy and $82.60 to rent. Used copies cost $105 to buy and $47.60 to rent. On Amazon, the book costs $111.99 to buy new and $20.28 to rent. On Chegg Books, the textbook costs $95.49 to buy new and $77.49 to rent.
There are plenty of retailers to find the same product, but they might not all be exactly the same.
“You have to look at a comparable product,” Strossner said. “So a lot of times students when they’re looking online you have to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. A lot of the time if you’re looking at the exact same product the prices are all in line.”