One thing we can all agree on is that we want students to have every opportunity possible to get what they need to succeed in college. This past year has seen an even greater number of students struggle without many ideas out there on how to help. Students who relied on things such as campus housing, meal plans, technology access, and the library were suddenly without. There is no one solution fits all approach, but we know that the campus store is a vital link to many student needs. We’ve put together a list of 5 innovative ways to help students through the campus store.
Gift Card Specials and Wish Lists
Family members are always looking for ways to help their college students succeed and have fun. Gift card specials and wish lists are simple, but effective ways to support students. Advertising gift card specials to parents during move in, the start of each semester, and holidays is a great way to get the word out. Making a wish list template available to students is also another way for them to easily let family members know what they need and how much it will cost. Whether the actual items are purchased or gift cards are given to cover specific materials, the students will benefit greatly.
Student Work Programs
Instead of the traditional work study program where students work for a paycheck or tuition reimbursement, developing an employment program that gives students store credit for the hours worked is beneficial in many ways. Students are getting practical business, customer service, management, and entrepreneurial work experience as well as money to cover the costs of course materials and other needs such as computers or software. In addition, your store receives a steady influx of student workers to cover high-volume textbook pickup times or manning a pop-up shop during events such as athletics, freshman orientation, or graduation.
Accepting Meal Plan & Campus Card Funds
Especially during COVID, students are finding that non-refundable items such as meal plans and laundry dollars are going to waste. Some schools have started to join forces with campus dining, the bursar, and the bookstore to give students with excess money in their accounts the chance to use it toward campus store purchases in person and online. Purchases can include merchandise and apparel, convenience items, textbooks, and technology. The opportunity to use these funds in a way that greatly helps those students impacted by the pandemic and overall equity disparities will support their success for years to come.
Store Scholarship Fund
Campus stores like Charlie’s Fan Shop at the University of South Dakota donates a portion of the proceeds from all sales to USD student scholarships. In fact, 100% of the online textbook sales support this scholarship. This is one way the greater community can also help students. Alumni, fans, family, and community members can feel even better showing school pride knowing that their purchases support students where and when they need it most.
Voucher & Charge Programs
Traditionally programs for students came through third-parties like veterans affairs, but with the right technology and creativity of your campus store team, the possibilities to help from inside are endless. Voucher programs can be set up for specific needs like a laptop, technical program uniforms, or a software subscription. They can also be for a specific dollar amount per semester to purchase a combination of textbooks, other course materials, and merchandise. A bookstore charge program gives students a line of credit to make purchases without having to wait for financial aid or other grant, loan, and scholarship disbursement.
Through new ideas and technology, the campus store has the opportunity to develop and promote programs to supply essential tools to students in need. A commitment to support every student in the most innovative ways, even on a small scale, makes a big difference in their lives. It helps them today, while setting them up for success in the future.