EKU is Breaking Barriers with Free Textbooks

Published on April 25, 2024

By Ethan Sirles

Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) made a groundbreaking announcement in April 2023, expanding its free textbook initiative and saving students a staggering $43 million. This move is a game-changer considering that the average undergraduate spends over $1,200 annually on books and materials, a cost that often influences students’ degree choices.

Traditionally, high textbook expenses have steered students away from certain majors, like law or STEM fields, where the costs are notably higher. However, at EKU, this financial burden no longer dictates educational paths. Students are empowered to pursue degrees based on their passions and talents, not on the price tag of textbooks.

“At EKU, we’ve focused our efforts on strategic and intentional growth—increasing opportunities for student affordability, support and experiences to attract and retain our students,” said EKU President David McFaddin. “We don’t want the cost of a textbook to stand in the way of a student reaching their full potential.”

From Fall 2022 to Fall 2023, EKU reached its highest retention rate in history at 79.62%. McFaddin said EKU’s emphasis on affordability through programs like EKU BookSmart has helped the university reach these milestones. Such achievements haven’t gone unnoticed, with Kentucky earning the No. 1 spot in the United States for its remarkable fall-to-fall total enrollment gains this year.

The impact of EKU’s initiatives is evident in students’ testimonials. Eliana Johnson, a senior homeland security major, expressed relief at not having to worry about textbook costs, highlighting the seamless access provided by EKU BookSmart. Similarly, Madison Mayes, a senior communication disorders major, praised the program for its financial support, contrasting her previous college experience before transferring to EKU.

EKU BookSmart, in partnership with Barnes & Noble, works as a textbook rental program. After registering for courses, books are gathered, packaged and shipped to students free of cost through EKU’s Barnes & Noble Bookstore.

“This initiative reflects EKU's broader mission of making higher education accessible to all, a core principle embodied by the university’s status as the School of Opportunity,” said McFaddin.

Located in Richmond, Kentucky, EKU is home to over 15,000 students and continues to prioritize affordability, student support and holistic education. With programs like EKU BookSmart leading the way, EKU is breaking barriers to higher education and paving the path for student success nationwide.

Learn more and apply today at eku.edu/apply.