Since its beginning in the early 1900s as a training college for teachers, Eastern Kentucky University has worked toward the goal of creating a better commonwealth. Higher education has the power to transform not just individual lives, but also those of families, neighborhoods and whole communities, creating a ripple effect that’s evident whenever a graduate returns to serve their hometown. And it all starts with opportunity.

EKU doesn’t just talk about offering opportunity--it lives it, in the multitude of programs it implements to make higher education more attainable and more affordable for students across Kentucky and beyond. Nearly 70 percent of EKU graduates are first-generation college students or from low-income backgrounds, and 75 percent of students are employed in Kentucky after they receive their degrees. EKU makes it possible for many students to attend college who wouldn’t otherwise, and those students make a difference in Kentucky.

 “We're very much connected to the communities and the region that we serve, and we want to make sure that we're accessible to them,” says Jill Page, EKU’s senior director of admissions. “It's part of who we are, but also who we serve.”

EKU makes that possible through programs like BookSmart, which provides free textbooks and course materials to students beginning in the Fall 2021 semester, saving them hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of dollars. There are also merit scholarships available from $1,000 to full in-state tuition per semester, most based not on standardized test scores, but high school GPA. It’s all part of the EKU Advantage, a collection of initiatives that make EKU more accessible than ever before.

Eliminating textbook sticker stock

Take BookSmart, for instance, which debuted with this current semester and has been met with overwhelmingly positive reviews from students and parents. “What students really like is that once they register for classes, they get their books delivered to them free of charge in what's called a Big E Box,” Page says. “There are some other great items in there, and they can be delivered wherever they are. It's free of charge. They can pick them up in the bookstore if they would like, but the Big E Box really generates a lot of excitement around the program.”

College textbooks can generate real sticker shock, given that they’re not covered by tuition or room and board, and cost an average of $1,240 per academic year, according to The College Board. “A lot of students don't recognize how expensive books can be,” Page says. “So, it's a huge benefit for students to not only be able to access affordable tuition at EKU, but also know that getting their books is not going to be a barrier for them being successful.”

Similarly, EKU has streamlined the process to be considered for a merit scholarship, which for Kentucky residents does not require submitting a separate application. Students will be automatically considered for merit scholarships based on their high school GPA, with test scores being taken into account only for the highest scholarship levels. EKU has also waived application fees and eliminated standardized test scores from its admission criteria, although students are encouraged to submit them for proper placement in English and math courses.

“I think the pandemic prompted a lot of institutions to think about test-optional admissions,” Page says. “But what students often don't realize is, they still need to take the ACT, SAT or another standardized placement test to be considered for scholarships. And they hit that roadblock. So, when we originally had these conversations, we wanted to hold true to that promise of being a school of opportunity and make sure that when we say test-optional, we mean test-optional. Students who apply for admission where we don't require test scores can automatically be considered for scholarships without test scores as well.”

Affordable options for anyone, anywhere

Located just off Interstate 75 near the heart of the Bluegrass, EKU stands as a convenient option not just for students in Kentucky, but also those from surrounding states such as Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. It can be close to home without being too close, and in the process provides a close-knit campus environment where it’s not difficult to make personal connections with other students or faculty members.

And any student from outside Kentucky is eligible for EKU’s Out-of-State Tuition Discount Program, which can make EKU a more affordable option than the schools in their home state. A discounted out-of-state tuition rate of $10,500 per year can also be combined with merit scholarships that range from $1,000 to $7,000 annually, based on a 4.0 high school GPA and standardized test scores.

At EKU, there’s an affordable option for almost anyone. The university has recently added corporate and nonprofit partnerships, beginning with alliances with the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties to provide tuition discounts for every county and city employee in their respective associations. More partnerships are coming, some with well-known brands as EKU continues to find new and inventive ways to fulfill its mission.

“We want to provide an opportunity for those in our service region to be able to enroll at the university, complete their degree, and then return to their communities and serve them successfully,” Page says. “And the EKU Advantage package helps students to be able to access EKU and benefit from the exceptional Eastern experience that awaits them.”

Interested in learning more about BookSmart, merit scholarships or other programs included in the EKU Advantage that can make Eastern Kentucky University a more affordable college option for you? Contact the admissions office at (859) 622-2106 or admissions@eku.edu, visit campus at 521 Lancaster Ave. in Richmond, Ky., or see their website at EKU.edu for further information.