Four years of free textbooks at Cumberlands

Cumberlands Students in Whitley County, Kentucky saved $6.1M through Free Textbook Program

WILLIAMSBURG, KY – Every on-campus student who is graduating from University of the Cumberlands this spring can honestly say they never had to pay for college textbooks. This is the fourth year the university’s free textbook program has operated for on-campus undergraduate students.

On-campus and online students at University of the Cumberlands saved a total of 6.1 million dollars during the 2023-2024 academic year alone, thanks to the university’s free textbook rental program.

Apologies in advance if this makes anyone feel old, but none of the on-campus undergraduates who completed degrees from Cumberlands this spring ever had to copy and paste textbook ISBN numbers into search bars on several different websites in order to find the cheapest options. There was no comparing prices, no comparing shipping costs, and no signups to receive endless emails from websites they may never use again just so they could land a good deal on college textbooks. And, of course, nobody went the first week or two of classes without textbooks (good luck on that homework!) simply because they forgot to order their books in time for the materials to arrive before classes began.

Instead, all on-campus undergraduates at Cumberlands simply registered for classes and let the campus bookstore handle the rest. The cost of the books was (and still is) included in tuition. Once a student registered for classes, a message was automatically sent to the campus bookstore, where hardworking Barnes & Noble staff compiled the correct books for the students and prepared the books for pickup at the students’ earliest convenience. All students had to do was show up, retrieve their books, and start the semester strong.

Beatriz “Bia” De Souza, a senior at Cumberlands who will receive her diploma this May, said, “When my dad found out UC offered free textbooks, he said, ‘Yep, you are going to that school.’ In my first year on campus, I was amazed by how easy the whole process of getting our books was. Every year, it is so fast and so convenient. I am thankful for the opportunity the school gives us to have an affordable education.”

At first, the free textbook rental program at Cumberlands only applied to on-campus undergraduates, those who were also paying room and board costs. But beginning in Fall 2023, the program was extended to include all students at the university: undergraduate and graduate, on-campus and online. University of the Cumberlands means it when they say, “What’s included in your tuition? Everything!”

When the expansion of the program was announced, Dr. Larry L. Cockrum, president of the university, explained, “One of the primary goals of this university is to make quality education accessible to all students. Accessibility includes affordability. This initiative expands access of an affordable education to every student that chooses Cumberlands as the provider of their online education.”

In short, it all goes back to a key component of Cumberlands’ mission: making a quality higher education affordable for students from all backgrounds.

It turns out that college students who bear excessive stress due to the cost of their course materials suffer measurable negative impact. According to the Pennsylvania Course Materials Cost Survey (2023), course materials’ prices caused 38 percent of respondents to earn a poor grade, 32 percent to decline from registering for a course, and 15 percent to either withdraw from a course or fail a course altogether.

Meanwhile, students at University of the Cumberlands had other options. Instead of paying for textbooks for four years, students could:

Pay down tuition or room and board costs…

Purchase athletic, art, or music equipment…

Purchase groceries and dorm room essentials…

Pay for car repairs and gas refills…

Purchase a plane ticket to go home over the holidays or study abroad…

Or anything else they wanted to do!

Free textbooks are one aspect of what the university calls their One Price Promise, which essentially means the university is determined to provide “everything a student needs to succeed” under one clear, transparent price, with no unexpected fees. Other items included in the One Price Promise are free parking, laundry, WiFi, campus events and activities, academic resources (such as tutoring), and mental health counselling.

The university made Money magazine’s list of colleges around America where students’ “tuition (and time) is likely to pay off” – outranking schools like the University of Kentucky and Bellarmine University.

Unlike some colleges in which students only receive free textbooks if they win a raffle, University of the Cumberlands automatically offers free textbooks to all its students. Learn more about what Cumberlands offers at

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