Op-ed: EKU prioritizes students for unprecedented period | Opinion

Even in these unprecedented times, Eastern Kentucky University’s mission as a school of opportunity for students remains strong. Building on this mission, we mark an exciting new chapter in supporting college affordability and student success.

At EKU, we serve a large percentage of low income and first generation students. We also serve students from families who can make ends meet, but still struggle to understand how all of the pieces of the college funding puzzle fit into their budgets. Students take different paths to pay for their education – over 80% receive many types of financial aids, including scholarships, grants, work studies, and loans, and most students work to pay their own fees . Regardless of where these funds come from, investing in their education, careers and futures will change their lives, their families and our communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear to us, and more than ever: college dreams cannot be put on hold. Our communities need EKU graduates to be the next generation of community leaders, healthcare professionals, first responders, educators and entrepreneurs. To achieve these goals, students need all the tools and supports available to help them succeed. While other colleges have different approaches, here are a few examples of what EKU is doing to help students during really tough times.

With health and wellness at the forefront, the University intends to offer a full range of in-person courses this fall. EKU welcomes students with affordable tuition fees and a plethora of scholarship opportunities. However, additional expenses are a drag for many students. When it comes time to start classes, students need textbooks and course materials to be successful in their classes. Buying books shouldn’t be a barrier to success.

We are very excited to introduce the EKU BookSmart program to our students for Fall 2021, made possible through our long-standing partnership with Barnes & Noble. EKU BookSmart provides free textbooks and course materials required for EKU undergraduates enrolled at all of our campuses and online. Yes, for free! Undergraduates won’t have to choose between buying their textbooks or paying for basic needs like food, accommodation or transportation. They will not have to consider the cost of a textbook in their decision to take a certain course. Nor will any student have to drop out of a course because they cannot afford the book.

Representing an estimated savings of $ 1,200 per year, EKU BookSmart reduces the overall cost of school attendance for students. We invest in our students so that they are ready to succeed from the start of their courses.

All undergraduate students are automatically enrolled in EKU BookSmart once they register for fall 2021 classes. Required books and materials will be gathered, packaged, and shipped directly to students in a Big E Box, or will be ready to be picked up from our Barnes & Noble EKU bookstore. On the first day of class, students will have what they need and teachers can begin teaching knowing their students are ready for success.

This innovative program, unique to EKU, is another way to keep college affordable. EKU BookSmart is part of EKU Advantage – a series of initiatives and incentives designed to keep higher education accessible to all who seek it. In addition to free textbooks, the EKU benefit includes free application fees and standardized test score requirements; new undergraduate scholarships based on high school grade point average; and expanded online course offerings. Anytime we can help the students it is an exciting time for EKU.

EKU BookSmart and the EKU Advantage reflect our investment in the dreams of our students, our commitment to state and region, and our mission as a school of opportunity. You can find a lot of information about all the opportunities at EKU, including the BookSmart program, at eku.edu.

Tanlee Wasson is vice president of student success at Eastern Kentucky University.

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