Save Money by Attending Tuition-Free Colleges
A handful of colleges and universities don’t add tuition to the bill, but their students usually have to work or serve in return for their education.
The schools that waive tuition are few and typically require some form of service along with strict eligibility guidelines. Most still charge room, board and other fees, so they’re not completely free, says Pamela Rambo, founder of the education-focused Rambo Research and Consulting firm. For instance, while all students at Berea College receive a scholarship to cover tuition, they still have to pay fees in addition to room and board.
“It is a big savings, but it’s not for everybody,” she says. “There are lots of ways to look at going to college for less money.”
A few states, like Maryland, Rhode Island, Tennessee, New York and Oregon, offer tuition-free schools, but grants to cover tuition at these local schools are usually based on residency, household income and other determining factors. New York is the only state among these four states to offer tuition waivers at the four-year college level.
With that caveat, here are 12 tuition-free colleges you may want to check out.
• Alice Lloyd College, Pippa Passes, Kentucky: Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, this school offers a free tuition guarantee, but only to full-time students from one of the 108 counties in the Central Appalachian service area. The area encompasses districts in Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the college’s home state of Kentucky. U.S. News rank: 16 (tie), Regional Colleges (South)
• Barclay College, Haviland, Kansas: Students attend this Christian college tuition-free, but students must live on campus to qualify. The school offers a handful of academic disciplines, including youth ministry, elementary education and business administration. The college is classified as a theological school, which U.S. News does not rank.
• Berea College, Berea, Kentucky: Students do not pay tuition at this Christian college but must participate in the Student Labor Program. All full-time students work at least 10 hours a week on campus and can receive additional wages ($5.55 to $8.40 an hour). U.S. News rank: 61 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
• College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, Missouri: This Christian school foots the bill for students’ tuition. Full-time students work 15 hours on campus per week, plus two 40-hour weeks each year during semester breaks. Part-time students pay on a credit basis. U.S. News rank: 3, Regional Colleges (Midwest)
• Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia: Students who apply to this small music school are evaluated on “artistic promise,” according to the institution’s mission statement, and must audition for a spot on the roster. The school puts on more than 200 student performances per year, and all accepted students receive full-tuition scholarships. The school has maintained its all-scholarship policy since 1928. U.S. News rank: Unranked
• Deep Springs College, Big Pine, California: This two-year liberal arts school only enrolls about 14 students for each incoming class. Students work on the school’s cattle ranch and alfalfa farm and receive scholarships to cover tuition and room and board for two years.
In fall 2018, the school began to enroll women for the first time to its entering class. The new admissions policy from the California Supreme Court rules that the longtime single-sex institution can’t deny admittance to women. Most students transfer to a four-year college to complete their degree. As a two-year institution, Deep Springs is not included in the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings.
• Warren Wilson College, Asheville, North Carolina: All resident students at Warren Wilson are required to work 10 hours per week as part of a college grant, developing a craft in particular areas, such as photography or animal husbandry. The school offers a tuition waiver in the form of the Warren Wilson College scholarship, but this is only available to North Carolina residents who qualify for need-based aid and attend as a first-time, full-time undergraduate. U.S. News rank: 143 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges.
• Webb Institute, Glen Cove, New York: Students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents pay no tuition or fees at this school, which bills itself as “the only college in the country devoted to ship design engineering.” This small engineering school offers a single course of study: a dual bachelor’s degree in naval architecture and marine engineering. Students can apply for federal loans and grants to cover the cost of their room and board and other expenses. U.S. News rank: Unranked
• Williamson College of the Trades, Middletown Township, Pennsylvania: This is a faith-based, all-male career college that grants associate degrees. Students at the college can study disciplines like masonry or carpentry. All students who qualify for need-based aid receive the Williamson scholarship, which which can be as high as $32,430, exceeding the cost of the school’s tuition and fees. As a trade school institution, Williamson is not included in the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings.
• Service academies: Pledging to serve the country can mean major educational benefits. The five institutions below tend to have rigorous application processes – all but the Coast Guard Academy require a congressional nomination for acceptance. Students at these academies are required to serve after graduation. Tuition, room and board are free.
• United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado. U.S. News rank: 30 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
• United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, Connecticut. U.S. News rank: 2, Regional Colleges (North)
• United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York. U.S. News rank: 3, Regional Colleges (North)
• United States Military Academy, West Point, New York. U.S. News rank: 18 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges
• United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland. U.S. News rank: 22 (tie), National Liberal Arts Colleges.