As the cost of going to college continues to rise, many students today have come to rely on financial aid to pay for more than just the tuition bill. Being able to use financial aid to purchase textbooks and other school supplies is critical to students on many campuses, including Pittsburg State University (PSU). Working closely with university administrators this past fall, the staff at The Gorilla Bookstore made a big change to their Student Financial Aid program that resulted in increased convenience and savings for students.
Traditionally, financial aid funds are not deposited into students’ accounts until the first day of classes, making it difficult to purchase course materials ahead of time and be fully prepared for the start of class. It simply wasn’t an ideal situation, and both the campus store manager, Fawn Chesnutt, and Dr. Steve Erwin, associate vice president for campus life & auxiliary services, agreed that something needed to change. “A lot of students come in wanting to use their financial aid to purchase books before the store gets too busy or before all the used books are gone, and in the past, there really wasn’t anything we could do to help them,” said Chesnutt.
Beginning with the fall 2013 semester, that is no longer the case. Through the new PSU Gorilla Bookstore Voucher Program, Pittsburg State students can now log onto their student accounts a few weeks before the start of classes to opt into this new program, which allows them to set aside a certain amount of financial aid dollars to be used at the campus store. The funds are kept on file in the campus store’s system, and students can use them to purchase course materials and other supplies either in-store or online, before money is actually deposited into their accounts.
“Not only have we seen a great response from students, but our textbook sales and rentals are up compared to last year as well, and I think that has a lot to do with the new Bookstore Voucher program,” said Chesnutt. “A lot of offices and departments came together to make this a reality – including the Barnes & Noble College Home Office, our school’s Office of Information Services, Financial Aid Office, and Enrollment Management. Everyone really worked together to make this happen for our students.”
Collaborating closely with school administrators was key to bringing the new program to the bookstore, which now offers students an easier, seamless experience for ordering their textbooks. “Pittsburg State is deeply committed to its students,” said Chesnutt. “So, helping them gain access to learning materials using financial aid, before the start of classes, has made a huge difference in the lives of many of our students.”