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Students can spend anything from five hundred to a thousand dollars on course material at the beginning of a semester. In a recent survey, Cengage, an education and technology company, found that 62 percent of African American students opt not to buy required textbooks for their courses due to the burden of high textbook prices.

About half of the African American students surveyed feel buying course materials has a big impact on their finances in college.

This fall and next spring, a select group of 1,000 students from historically black colleges and universities will get access to free textbooks through Cengage Unlimited subscriptions.

Launched last August, the ‘Netflix-for-textbooks’ service is open to full-time students enrolled at UNCF-member institutions, or other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

To sign up, you need to have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale, completed a FAFSA form, and show a demonstrated, unmet financial need as verified by your college.

The deadline to apply is August 29 at 11:59 PM EST

For our back to school STEM education series, US Black Engineer magazine spoke to Todd Markson, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Cengage (photo inset), about the UNCF-Cengage partnership, and Cengage’s efforts to improve college affordability.

“High priced textbooks have been a barrier for students for too long,” Markson said. “Cengage Unlimited is a solution to what we saw as a growing problem. It’s essentially access to all of our content– 22,000 e-books, many, many different courses — all the information we produce at one low price: $120 for the semester and $180 for the year.”

Students get access not only to course textbooks but related information as well.

The Cengage Unlimited digital subscription model offers an online homework access code, study guides, and other college study tools like Chegg, Kaplan, Evernote, Dashlane, Quizlet, among others.

So far, more than a million subscriptions have been sold. Last school year, it saved students $60 million and is expected to save them another $100 million this academic year.

Coming into a new season, Markson sees a new wave of subscribers. Advertising, press, and social media have helped spread the word. Cengage Unlimited has also provided information in bookstores for students, giving them more insights as to what the best options are as they go in to buy books.

“Cengage and UNCF will provide 1,000 students from historically black colleges and universities with a free semester-long subscription for Cengage Unlimited,” Markson said. “UNCF is our partner in administering the program and in selecting recipients on behalf of Cengage. Five hundred of these subscriptions will be awarded in the fall and 500 in the spring.”

Each subscription is worth a $120, and it’s “a leg-up” to start the new semester. Applications for the Spring 2020 semester will open on Nov. 4.

Students can learn more and apply here: UNCF/CENGAGE UNLIMITED VOUCHER PROGRAM 2019

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