A For Affordability

Published on August 08, 2023

Eastern Kentucky University finds innovative ways to provide affordable education with scholarships and free textbooks to ensure student success.

By Elise Russell

“When I decided to attend college, I was so excited but part of me felt guilty. I was leaving my family behind and knowing that they already struggled financially, I was worried that me going to college would be just another expense they would have to help pay,” said Charity Asher, who came to Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) from Bell County, Kentucky. 

Asher’s concern was one that other students share, as more than half of new freshmen at EKU in Fall 2022 were the first in their families to pursue a college degree, and many come from low-income backgrounds.

EKU’s long-standing reputation as the School of Opportunity is built on stories like Asher’s, whose father worked as a coal miner and whose mother is a homemaker. Through a competitive tuition rate, scholarship opportunities and cost-saving programs, students can pursue the opportunity of an education at EKU. 

“EKU is committed to increasing access to a college degree. Since 2020, EKU has reduced the cost of attendance by nearly 10%. This is in major part due to the fact that EKU offers free books for all—the only public university in the state to make this commitment,” said EKU President David McFaddin. “Because we serve so many first-generation and low-income students, the goal is that on day one, they’ve got all the tools in the toolbox to be successful.” 

EKU’s innovative free textbook program, called EKU BookSmart, represents an average savings of $1,200 per year for each undergraduate student. For Fall 2023, EKU BookSmart is being expanded to include graduate, doctoral and certificate students, on campus and online, in addition to undergraduate students who have received free textbooks through the program since Fall 2021. 

Along with EKU BookSmart, scholarship opportunities help to further lower the cost of attendance. EKU’s merit scholarships award students based on their high school GPA and optional test scores, with amounts ranging from $1,000 per year up to the full in-state tuition amount. In Fall 2022, more than a third of incoming EKU students received a merit-based scholarship, which is automatically applied to their accounts. 

Aren Moreno, a sophomore from Richmond, Kentucky, received the Merit Tier III scholarship.

“This scholarship is helping me as a student because I wouldn’t be able to go to college without it,” Moreno said. “It also motivates me to get better grades and maintain a good GPA.”

Additionally, the EKU Foundation offers an array of donor-funded scholarship opportunities for students, with varying amounts and criteria. In fiscal year 2022, the EKU Foundation awarded $1.7 million in scholarships to more than 2,000 students. 

For Asher, the E.O. Robinson Mountain Scholarship through the EKU Foundation helped make her college experience possible. After graduating in 2022 as the first in her family with a college degree, she now works in public health. “I chose to work in healthcare due to my love for people," said Asher. "I want to educate others on their health and give back to a community that has given me so much.”

Ivy Morgan, from Leslie County, Kentucky, received the Elmer Begley Memorial Scholarship and the Whitaker Foundation, Inc. Scholarship through the EKU Foundation. 

“As a child, I was made aware of how few people in my hometown finish high school, let alone attend college. My grandfather, an alumnus of EKU, pushed for me to take this next step in my life,” Morgan said. “I was scared and unsure of living in a new place. My family has been low income my whole life and, in truth, another fear was affording college. It is thanks to scholarships that I can take some of that weight off of my shoulders and focus on studies. Even beyond studies, this scholarship gives me the opportunity to focus on lifelong friendships I will make at EKU. I am overwhelmed by the sense of community this campus offers.”

Through scholarships, EKU BookSmart and other initiatives, EKU continually strives to reduce financial barriers to education and ensure student success. Learn more about scholarship opportunities at go.eku.edu/scholarships or EKU BookSmart at go.eku.edu/booksmart