Revival of U-Swap program may help students’ search for textbooks, housing

The site makes sales safe and easier for students.

by Rilyn Eischens

After a few years of inactivity, University of Minnesota students are revamping U-Swap, a website designed to help students buy and sell textbooks and look for housing.

While students can already buy books and sublet their houses through platforms like Facebook and Craigslist, the site’s organizers said U-Swap is a more efficient, secure option.

U-Swap allows users to search through textbook postings by class or title, and students looking for housing can filter postings by location, price and size, said Karl Breustedt, who has headed the project since December.

Breustedt, a management information systems junior, said two University students founded U-Swap about five years ago. Over 8,000 students had registered within a year of its launch, he said, but it fell into disuse when the founders graduated.

Though Facebook groups like University of Minnesota Free & For Sale, which has more than 12,000 members, are popular options for students, U-Swap is more effective, Breustedt said.

He said the accessibility of housing information on the site has one major advantage.

“It’s really hard … to get a good gauge of what’s available and what the price ranges are [on other platforms],” he said. “One of the most important things we’re trying to do is force housing transparency.”

And the site is more secure than other groups that anyone can use, such as Craigslist, he said.

“You need to have a student ID attached to use the site, so this allows a safer … marketplace where you’re only going to be buying from U of M students,” he said.

Breustedt said he will be collaborating with the Minnesota Student Association on the project.

MSA Academic Affairs Committee Director Makda Biniam said the security advantage is one reason her committee took an interest in the project.

“This is the best way to go about it because it’s one specific site that you know is safe,” she said.

MSA also hopes to support the textbook feature because other options — like selling textbooks back to the University Bookstore — aren’t great for students, said MSA President Abeer Syedah.

“We’ve also … heard that the bookstore … doesn’t necessarily love the labor costs and fees associated with returning textbooks, and students don’t make a lot of money when they sell textbooks back to the bookstore,” she said.

Breustedt said the University Bookstore has agreed to discuss a potential partnership that he hopes would make the process of buying and selling textbooks better for students.

Going forward, Breustedt wants to gather feedback about U-Swap and promote it on campus.

The website is currently functional, but students aren’t aware of it, Breustedt said.

Some students who use the Free & For Sale Facebook group think it works well but would rather use a site like U-Swap.

Tyler Tegtmeier, a forest and natural resource management senior, said his housing posts in the Free & For Sale group have garnered a lot of responses, but he dislikes how the page is organized.

“So many things get posted … [that] a post might get lost in all the other posts, and someone might give up searching after five minutes,” he said.

He said U-Swap would be a better alternative if students can search more easily.

“I would use it … if it was accessible,” he said.

Senior food systems major Cally O’Neill has used the Free & For Sale group to look for subleasers. She thinks the group is both secure and easy to use, but she would use something like U-Swap in addition to existing platforms, she said.

“I wouldn’t use it in place of Facebook,” she said. “I would try to hit all of the possible avenues … to increase the chances someone who needs what I’m selling will see my item.”