From its beginnings in the early 1900s as a teacher’s college, a mission of Eastern Kentucky University has been to produce graduates who go on to better lives throughout the Commonwealth and beyond. That duty has never changed—even amid public health and economic crises that threaten to put a college degree out of reach.

“Now more than ever, we're committed to the idea that education is the solution for a lot of problems we're facing as a society in general. I think first-generation students especially feel that maybe college isn't an option for them,” says Elizabeth Ballou, EKU’s executive director for enrollment management. “So to address those larger issues that we're dealing with, we want to make sure as many students as possible recognize that yes, you can go to college. We're here to help you do that.”

Toward that end, EKU has implemented a slate of incentives for the 2020-21 academic year designed to ease the financial burden for those struggling under the weight of potential job cuts, revenue losses or health concerns. Called the EKU Advantage, it’s among the most wide-ranging initiatives in the university’s history, touching everything from applications, financial aid and tuition to new students, online students, graduate students and more.

“It’s building on the ideas of access and opportunity,” Ballou says. “We want to make sure we’re providing those opportunities to everyone—our first-time freshmen coming in, transfer students, graduate students, and our adult learners. We really have a great track record of educating students who stay in Kentucky and then go out to serve in their communities in public safety, social work, education and all those fields that touch the heart of what Kentucky is about.”

Scholarships, discounts and tuition assistance

Chief among the incentives in the EKU Advantage is a guarantee of no tuition or fee increases for the 2020-21 academic year—a pledge that covers not just tuition, but also housing and dining costs. “It’s in response to our students’ needs,” Ballou says. Similarly, the program waives both graduate and undergraduate application fees, allowing prospective students to apply to EKU for free.

EKU has implemented virtual financial aid services that can be arranged by filling out an online request form to better serve students in an age of social distancing. And three new scholarships have been unveiled: a need-based housing grant available to Kentucky students, an Access Scholarship that awards $1,000 to in-state, diverse students who meet certain academic requirements, and an Opportunity Scholarship of up to $3,000 for students in financial need.

 “It’s about making sure we're reaching the students who maybe need a little additional extra help, whether that's based on their financial need or just things that they're dealing with,” Ballou says. “So we're looking at students on a case-by-case basis and seeing what we can do through these additional scholarship dollars to help them meet their goals.”

For incoming students, EKU has implemented an online pre-registration program that makes it faster and easier for first-year students to enroll in classes. Harkening back to EKU’s roots, teachers can now receive a $395 discount per credit hour toward a master’s in education. And students enrolled in EKU’s popular nursing and aviation majors can participate in an “Invest in Success” program where income-based tuition funding is available in exchange for a fixed percentage of future income.

Online options and career outcomes

For students enrolled in on-campus programs but perhaps hesitant to attend classes in person, online courses have been discounted to the standard on-campus tuition rate. More online courses are also available—including those in fields such as computer science, supply chain management and social work, all applicable to the current environment shaped by the coronavirus pandemic.

“For online programs, it’s primarily going to be an adult learner-focused audience, and they're looking for career outcomes,” Ballou says. “So we look at where there are opportunities. That’s why we’re excited about all these programs, making sure to match them to the career opportunities we’re currently seeing.”

From incoming freshmen to graduate students to returning students studying online, the EKU Advantage offers something for all students needing some financial relief—and who perhaps wouldn’t be able to attend college without it. With an expanded online catalog in addition to face-to-face courses offered in the fall semester, students will have even more options, further cultivating the environment of opportunity that is the bedrock of EKU.

“Some of these are things that we had planned before the pandemic, just recognizing the audience that we serve with a lot of first-generation students may have some additional hurdles that more traditional students might not see,” Ballou says. “But then even more so now, a little bit can go a long way considering everything that people are facing. So we wanted to provide as much help and support as we can.”

Interested in learning more about the EKU Advantage, and how it might help you further your educational goals? Contact EKU at (859) 622-1000, or visit the program’s website at Advantage.EKU.Edu for further information.