An Online Textbook Scholarship for Every Student at Kentucky State University

(Banner image of Kentucky State University campus taken from the school’s website.)

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Making Essential Course Materials Affordable

As students across the nation returned to campus this fall, college affordability was an increasingly frequent topic of discussion among policymakers and political candidates. As the debate over how to address this important issue continues, one university is taking matters into its own hands.

At Kentucky State University, all students receive a scholarship to cover the full cost of their course materials. This new program, announced in August, delivers these free course materials in a 100% digital format, through Pearson’s Direct Digital Access model.

“Some traditional textbooks can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 apiece,” says Aaron Thompson who is interim president at Kentucky State. “The fact is, some students simply cannot afford to buy all the textbooks required for their course load.”

Getting Students What They Need from the Beginning

Kentucky State University was founded in 1886. Its first term, the school had 3 teachers, 55 students, and one classroom building.

Today, around 1,700 students attend KSU. In-state students pay from $4,000 to $7,000 each year. Out-of-state students can pay up to $17,000.

“We want to ensure that all our students have equitable access to required course materials the very first day they walk into the classroom,” says Candice Jackson, the school’s acting vice president for Academic Affairs.

Digital Direct Access

Kentucky State University’s digital offering is part of a Digital Direct Access (DDA) model, developed by Pearson.


It’s the 55th school to become a DDA partner in 2016 alone.

While KSU students are getting all of their course materials for free, for other partners, the Digital Direct Access program brings down the cost of textbooks by up to 60 percent.

Not only do students have access to course materials online, instructors use the platform to gain key insights into students’ learning activity.

Technical support is also provided through the program 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

More and More Students Opting for Online Textbooks

Four years ago, Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) piloted a similar program for students in just over 100 courses.

Samantha Birk, Associate Director for Instructional Technology, Indiana University, – Purdue University Fort Wayne, was interviewed about the launch and continued use of the program last summer:

Although we track cost, I think the larger issue we really pay attention to is the ease of access and helping students and faculty easily get into their course materials and how they are tackling learning.

The conversation of student success at the freshman level and the cost of the materials, have come together to create this environment where it made it easy for IPFW to start looking at and moving into ebooks. …

Overall, the greater percentage of the students either really like or they’re fine with the program. There’s a small number of students that question it, and don’t particularly care for the program or don’t like reading eBooks, and that is understandable.  Digital books are still very new in comparison to what most of us a familiar with–physical, print books. …

The nice thing with this part of the program is that if a student is not really comfortable with an ebook, they can use these print versions in tandem with the the digital product.

Computers Not Needed

Pearson’s DDA program is optimized for mobile devices and tablets, as well as laptop and desktop computers. This allows students to complete assigned reading from anywhere, with almost any device. For those KSU students without a laptop, the school has a number of options available.

“If a student does not own a computer, not to worry,” says Candice Jackson. “Students can choose to rent a computer for a small use fee—or the university offers free computers at convenient locations all over campus.”