Going to college for free? You’re kidding, right? We’re not, actually; some colleges right here in the U.S. as well as some abroad are free for Americans! We’re going to cover four different categories of colleges with no tuition, so buckle up and join us on our Free College (!) tour.
Four Year Colleges in the United States
Thought a four year college in the U.S. could never be free? Think again! Assumed only lousy colleges looking to attract students would be free? See our list of free four year colleges in the U.S. below, and, well, think again.
College of the Ozarks
At College of the Ozarks in Missouri, if you’re a full-time student, you participate in an on-campus work-study program. You’ll be expected to work 15 hours per week as well as two 40-hour work weeks per year. This way, you earn work credit that can be added onto the federal and/or state aid for which you qualify; whatever amount is left over after these two sources of funding are combined is covered by the college through a “Cost of Education” Scholarship. Note, though, that the scholarship covers only the cost of academic courses and not room and board!
Curtis Institute of Music
Curtis, located in Philadephia, Pennsylvania, has a reputation for being one of the world’s most exclusive conservatories. Only 174 students are enrolled! While tuition is free, do be warned that you are expected to cover student fees as well as room and board costs.
This broad subcategory includes:
- United States Air Force Academy (Colorado)
- United States Coast Guard Academy (Connecticut)
- United States Merchant Marine Academy (New York)
- United States Military Academy (New York)
- United States Naval Academy (Maryland)
All of the schools listed above are well-ranked and highly respected. You’re guaranteed to get an amazing education at any one of them! The only caveat to the free tuition as well as the free room and board provided is that you will be required to serve in the U.S. military upon graduation. But hey, you’re still paid for serving in the military!
Situated in Kentucky within the Appalachia region, Berea College is distinctive for its policy of free tuition for everyone. Once you’re admitted, you’ll receive what’s called the Tuition Promise Scholarship, which is equivalent to more than $176,000 over the course of four years! As a Berea student, you’ll be expected to work at least 10 hours per week at an on-campus position. Your wage, which will fall somewhere in the range of $5.60–$8.75 per hour, can be used to pay for room and board as well as for books. You can also use up to $1,000 in outside scholarships to pay for books.
New York’s Webb Institute is a little bit of an oddball on our list. It’s a highly specialized engineering school: it offers just one program, a dual bachelor’s degree in naval architecture and marine engineering. As long as you’re a U.S. permanent resident or citizen and enrolled, you’ll be provided with a full-tuition scholarship. If you fill out the FAFSA, you may also qualify for additional need-based aid to cover other costs of attending Webb.
While this private Christian college in Kansas is not ranked by the U.S. News & World Report due to its religious nature, you can attend tuition-free if you live on-campus!
For all these colleges that we’ve covered, you’ll often be required to fill out the FAFSA and obtain as much funding as possible from outside sources of aid before the college will hand you a tuition-free education. Also, international students may or may not be accepted under tuition-free policies, so be sure to check with the school first!
Many states actually have free community college programs! However, there may be some qualifications you need to meet in order to be eligible, and please note that most community college scholarships come in “last-dollar” form. This means that scholarship programs take into account your ability to pay (i.e. they do expect you to pay some part of your tuition) and then meet whatever gap is left in your educational funds. While not exactly the same as the tuition-free colleges we looked at in the previous section, these community college programs are still worth a look because lots of people don’t realize how many resources are available to help pay for community college! The states listed below run programs that will enable you to attend college for a very affordable rate (without the burden of student loans!), or the college will meet 100% of your demonstrated need, something that a lot of schools besides elite ones like Stanford and Harvard don’t do.
If you’re looking for last-dollar scholarship money to help pay for a community college education, check out these states below:
- New York
- Rhode Island
Check each state’s program, as there may be eligibility requirements! Keep in mind as well that these scholarships rarely cover room and board; they’re mostly for use with tuition costs.
Colleges in Europe
Going to college in Europe? That sounds so cool! Many people are aware that college in Europe is free for residents of the E.U. or residents of the colleges’ respective countries. However, what many people aren’t as aware of is the fact that even U.S. citizens can qualify for free tuition at many European colleges! This is also true for international students from other countries, but the policy of each school varies. Remember that free tuition doesn’t equate a completely free college career, though; you’ll still need to pay for room and board, books, and standard fees (which usually amount to under $1,000).
If the thought of going abroad for college excites you, check out these countries below to attend for free!
At Austrian state universities, there are no general tuition fees. The only exception to this rule is that you can’t study for longer than necessary to obtain your degree; in other words, you need to stay on track to graduate!
Most federally-sponsored state universities in Germany offer free tuition. However, you’ll still be expected to pay administration fees in the range of 100 to 350 euros, and additional fees in the range of 500 to 650 euros if you’re a long-term student.
Unfortunately for those of you thinking about studying at a private German university, tuition isn’t free because it’s a crucial source of funding for private schools.
The only thing you pay at the University of Iceland is an annual registration fee of 75,000 krona. Sounds like a lot, but it’s only about $650!
The University of Luxembourg is a special case on our list. It’s not technically free tuition, but in general, it costs only about 200 euros per term, which is still pretty cheap.
Most of Norway’s universities and state university colleges are publicly funded; combined with the Norwegian government’s commitment to accessible higher education, this means free tuition no matter your country of citizenship! The only drawback of going to Norway is that the cost of living there is high.
The Czech Republic is a bit more of an iffy case. If you study at a public or state school in the Czech language, tuition is free, but if you study in English, it might not be free.
If you’re interested in attending college in a European country not listed here, don’t worry! That just means tuition is probably not free, but that doesn’t say anything about the cost of your education. There are other European colleges which offer programs that are more affordable than those in the U.S., so it’s still worth checking out Europe if you’re looking for a cheaper education.
Free College Tuition for Local Residents
Some colleges offer free tuition for local residents! We’ve listed a couple examples below.
Alice Lloyd College
Located in Kentucky, Alice Lloyd serves the Central Appalachian area. Thus, if you live in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, or West Virginia, you qualify for their free tuition program.
Warren Wilson College
Warren Wilson, situated in North Carolina, offers last-dollar aid for every North Carolina undergraduate eligible for federal and/or state need-based grants. Whatever portion of your need that isn’t covered by your outside aid will be covered by the College. If you qualify for student loans, you can apply your loaned money towards the cost of room and board, which the free tuition program does not cover.
In addition to colleges like Alice Lloyd and Warren Wilson, some states run broader state-wide programs to grant certain people a tuition-free education.
The Cal State Universities have what they call the California Promise, which provides 100% scholarship coverage of tuition if you are low-income, a first-generation college student, or from an underrepresented minority, and you qualify according to other regulations.
As long as your household’s annual income level is below $125,000, you qualify for free tuition at any State University of New York (SUNY) or City University of New York (CUNY) college through the Excelsior Program.
The 21st Century Scholars program applies to any state university in Indiana or qualifying private university, though you receive a little less money for the private universities. To qualify to participate, you have to be low-income, which is defined as 185% of the federal poverty level. You’ll need to sign up in 7th or 8th grade and complete certain activities in high school where you learn about and prepare for college. Upon graduation from high school, your family still has to be at or below 370% of the federal poverty level for you to remain in the program. As long as you follow directions and earn a cumulative GPA of 2.5, 100% of your college tuition will be covered.
The College Bound Scholarship program gives you a full-ride scholarship if you are below 65% of the median family income level.
Remember that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to scholarships and options for low-income students. There are many other colleges and programs that we didn’t touch on, so make sure to do your research if this is something important to you! For those of you who may not fit into the qualifications for the programs and aid listed here, stay tuned for our next blog on merit scholarships!