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Free textbooks for North Carolina A&T undergraduates until 2023

Barnes & Noble College has a partnership that relieves students from the burden of buying textbooks

Beginning this fall, all undergraduate students at North Carolina A&T State University will receive free textbooks for two school years, courtesy of a partnership with Barnes & Noble College (BNC).

Created in 2019, BNC First Day Complete is a program focused on ensuring that a lack of funds and resources do not hinder a college student’s success. BNC does this by meeting in the spring with institutions to discuss material usage patterns and a funding package to allow access for each student.

N.C. A&T is the first historically Black college and university (HBCU) to participate in the BNC First Day Complete program for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. Several private institutions and community colleges have benefited since its inception, including Campbell University in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, New York.

In the first semester at Campbell and Onondaga in 2019, students saw significant savings from the program and had preparation rates of 90% and 75%-80%, respectively. Mercer University, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Polk State College and Eastern Florida State College are among some of the other institutions in the program.

For the average college student, books and supplies can cost anywhere from $900 to $2,000 each academic year. The annual cost for N.C. A&T students is roughly $1,600. Besides saving $1,600 annually, the school says, students will not experience a tuition increase and the program will provide dining and housing scholarship support.

“As a graduate of N.C. A&T, I am glad the school is helping college become more affordable for students,” said David Hendricks III, a recent public relations graduate. “My brother will be starting his first semester at Aggieland in the fall and this new partnership helps my family a lot. During my time in Greensboro, North Carolina, several of my friends were not able to complete their degrees due to the financial demands of attending a university. With these new steps taking place, I am excited to see many Aggies walk across the stage just like I did about a month ago.”

Because of BNC First Day Complete and the federal CARES Act, the annual cost for a student to attend N.C. A&T will also decrease, according to the university. The CARES Act, officially known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, was signed in March 2020 as a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill. The Washington Post reported that during the coronavirus pandemic, 65% of students opted out of buying necessary textbooks for their course load.

“The university is continuing to make college affordable for its students,” said Janae Baker, a rising psychology senior at N.C. A&T. “Providing free textbooks benefits every student on campus in a multitude of ways. Students who may not buy books will have access, more students will be able to keep their books to refer back instead of renting, and professors will have a better selection of course materials.”

First Day Complete also gives the faculty the freedom to choose the courses that will help them get information to students in the most effective way, according to the university. Before the book-buying program was created, some faculty and staff would avoid requesting that students buy certain materials because they knew the prices might be too high for them. This partnership allows them access to better materials without having to consider the publisher.

“This is a wonderful program for enhancing learning,” said Beryl McEwen, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at N.C. A&T. “Others should want to try to put similar programs in place, and we are happy to help design similar programs.”

N.C. A&T faculty members also think this partnership will elevate students’ grades because textbooks and resources are a vital part of student advancement.

“Due to cost considerations, students often defer purchasing all the required and supplemental textbooks,” said Robert Pompey, N.C. A&T’s vice chancellor for business and finance. “As a result, they risk falling behind in their classwork at a critical juncture in the semester. Additionally, many of our students work extra hours to afford the cost of their education. The program allows our students to have their textbooks on the first day and positions them for success in all their classes without incurring any additional costs.”

Students will be able to use the program at the beginning of August, before classes begin on Aug. 18. Each student will receive an email to their student account with step-by-step instructions. First Day Complete also gives students the option to own physical copies of textbooks or digitally downloading them in the software app Blackboard.

“We have already been contacted by a number of HBCUs after our announcement,” said Pompey. “They, too, have plans to implement a textbook program similar to ours here at North Carolina A&T State University. We foresee other public HBCUs implementing this program.”

Alexis Davis is a former Rhoden Fellow. She loves styling suits with sneakers and can name any sneaker you show her. She quit basketball to cheer in high school but hopes the women's basketball coverage she does now makes the sport forgive her for going to the other side of the sideline.