A new initiative is easing the burden of college expenses for hundreds of HBCU students across the country. 

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), one of the nation's largest minority education organizations, has teamed up with Cengage to provide students with free textbooks.

The effort will benefit 1,000 HBCU students nationwide. Select students will be given an online, semester-long subscription to Cengage Unlimited.

Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President and CEO of UNCF, rejoiced about the organization joining forces with Cengage and said, “We pleased to have them as an ally in helping to educate the next generation of leaders.”  

“We must continue to invest our time and money in better futures for young people around the country,” Lomax continued. 

The program holds special significance for HBCU students as they’re disproportionately hit the hardest with student loan debt, according to The Wall Street Journal. The report reflects on the burden by acknowledging how the colleges and universities once served as a resource that “helped lift generations of African-Americans to economic security…. [but] now, attendance has become a financial drag on many of their young graduates.” 

More specifically, most Black students at HBCUs aren’t just carrying the weight from student loans, but they’re also going without necessary educational resources such as textbooks due to the high cost. 

The national average cost for textbooks is $153 per course and has increased four times faster than the rate of inflation within the last decade. As The Philadelphia Tribune reports, research shows that 60% of Black students have opted out of purchasing textbooks all together because they’re too expensive. 

“Every student should have an equal opportunity to succeed, and having the right learning materials can have a critical impact on performance,” Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage, said in a statement. 

Students who are interested in applying for the program can visit here. Applications for the upcoming fall semester are due Aug. 29 and Nov. 4 for the 2020 spring semester.