THE COLLEGE TEXTBOOKS SCAM, THE GREAT AMERICAN RIP-OFF: Have you ever experienced or witnessed something that looked or felt so wrong that you just had to stop and do something about it? Well, I’m going through one of those moments right now. If you have loved ones or friends currently attending or will be attending college in the near future, take a moment to read this bulletin. I’m a middle-age man going back to school. I haven’t set foot on a college campus since 1981. Although a bit apprehensive, I was pumped up when I received my acceptance letter from Erie Community College (ECC) in Buffalo, New York. And then, hard reality hit me right smack in the face! I was in utter shock when I saw the price tags on my required textbooks. Baffled, I put on my journalist hat and began to dig. What I uncovered made me realize that this selling college textbooks thing is a shady racket. It’s the ultimate white collar rip-off scheme smoothly orchestrated by the Follett Corporation.
I used to think that Bernie Madoff was America’s greatest swindler. Gee, was I ever wrong. In my opinion now, the Follett Corporation is the biggest winner in the hustlers’ game. Bernie Madoff was pulling off his ponzi scheme for over 20 years, but the evolving Follett Corporation has been publishing, distributing and selling college textbooks since 1925 and taking American college students for a ride ever since.
The Follett Corporation , based in River Grove, Illinois, has become the nation’s largest supplier of college textbooks. On the Forbes’ list of top private companies, it has over 1,600 bookstores and produces more than $2.7 billion in annual revenue. Hidden behind the official name ‘Auxiliary Services Corporation of Erie Community College’ is the Follett Corporation. By strategically placing itself on campus, the Follett Corporation is at an economic advantage against any competing bookstores, off campus or online. When ECC and other colleges across America willingly make the giant Follett Corporation a bedfellow they are inviting potential murky activities. After meeting certain criteria, low-income students may qualify for tuition assistance, such as TAP and PELL grants from the state and federal government. When the student is approved for the TAP and PELL grants, the on campus college bookstore has its doors open, cash register plugged in and cashier readily standing with a big cheerful grin. In some circles this would be considered a kickback, especially when a typical student is paying an average of $600 on books per semester. Shrewdly positioning itself as the official on campus bookstore, the Follett Corporation has become a monopoly.
Can you imagine the amount of a telephone bill today if the government hadn’t stepped in and force ‘Ma Bell’ to break up in 1984? Would we have Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon today if Ma Bell had continued to monopolize the telephone market? ECC and colleges throughout the nation need to rethink the way they acquire textbooks for their students. Inviting more bookstores on campus could lower the outrageous price of textbooks. For my grandkids’ sake, I hope that one day college textbooks are sold for less than $60 per copy. In contrast, one of my required textbooks currently has a price tag of $164!
Being away from school for years, I initially thought that the most daunting thing about returning to the modern day classroom was facing today’s techno-savvy world of touch-screen computers and other fancy gadgetry. Ironically, it was the old-fashioned two-pound textbook that hit me the hardest. Not qualifying for any special grants or book scholarships, I had to make a decision of whether or not to use my own money to purchase the required textbooks for the Spring 2013 semester from the Follett bookstore on campus. I refuse to feed the monopoly beast. I’ve chosen not to buy a single textbook from the Follett Corporation. Instead, I spend a lot of time in the college library, where most required textbooks are available, although on a limited basis.
The skills of being creative and resourceful I’d acquired as a poor country boy in Virginia and in the military will be put into play now as I try my best to navigate through my freshman year without my own books. We must stop the Follett Corporation from doing a number on college students in America. My aim in writing this bulletin is to spread the truth and let the truth do its job. – RANDOLPH RANDY CAMP, February 2013
One summer. Seven hearts. 29 Dimes. It wasn’t your typical LA summer. No one could’ve predicted what happened that day in Silver Lake. It was a summer of passion, confusion, and growth. One hot, crazy summer. Seven hungry hearts. 29 Dimes. Award-winning, prolific writer Randolph Randy Camp creates a moving, tender love story amid a wild, crazy summer as Teki, Ronnie, Pepe, Brittany, Kalib, Tip, and Valerie each will have an experience that will shape and change their young lives forever. Valerie has the kind of natural beauty that belongs on magazine covers. All the guys in Silver Lake dream about her. One guy will get lucky this summer and win her heart. Pepe’s mouth has always gotten him into trouble. A talented street poet, will Pepe’s provocative, ‘in your face’ anthem ‘Hear My Echo!’ get him into trouble at this summer’s Silver Lake street festival? Teki will be the first to admit that she’s certainly not your typical Chinese girl. A gifted musical prodigy, Teki once got kicked out of a prestigious music academy for rocking a reggae rhythm instead of the required Beethoven tune at her classical piano recital. Now, at seventeen, Teki fronts an all-girl progressive reggae band in Silver Lake. Kalib is a young Armenian computer whiz who is hoping to win Valerie’s heart this summer. Carrying the agonizing weight of his family’s dark past on his shoulders, Kalib believes that Valerie’s love could wash away all of that pain, if only he could somehow convince her to go out with him. A gifted storyteller, Randolph Randy Camp offers the reader a realistic glimpse of contemporary life in the Los Angeles community of Silver Lake. If you still believe that love can happen to the most unlikely people and that love still can be found in the most unusual place then Randolph Randy Camp’s ’29 Dimes: A Love Story’ is for you. One summer. Seven hearts. 29 Dimes.
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