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Colleges with Free Tuition


More than a dozen colleges offer free tuition to all students. The colleges don't charge any tuition, but most do charge for room and board and there are other incidental expenses (e.g., books, supplies and equipment, transportation, health insurance, personal expenses), so loans are still required, just not as frequently or as much. Many of these colleges require all students to work. Several of these colleges are located in rural and remote areas.

These colleges include Alice Lloyd College (KY), Barclay College (KS), Berea College (KY), College of the Ozarks (MO), Cooper Union (NY), Curtis Institute of Music (PA), Deep Springs College (CA), Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (MA), Saint Louis Christian College (MO), Webb Institute (NY), William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY (NY) and Williamson College of the Trades (PA).

The various Armed Forces colleges, including the US Military Academy (West Point, NY), US Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) and US Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point, NY), do not charge any tuition.

The University of the People is a free online college, but it is not yet accredited, the courses are mostly introductory and it may start charging admissions application fees.

College Profiles

Alice Lloyd College
Alice Lloyd College (founded 1923) is a 4-year liberal arts college with a religious emphasis located in Pippa Passes, Kentucky. It provides free tuition for residents of the 108 central Appalachian counties (Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia). There are 609 undergraduate students, with a student-faculty ratio of 19:1. All students work 10-20 hours a week.

Barclay College
Barclay College (founded 1917) is a 4-year bible college located in Haviland, Kansas. There are more than 100 students with a student-faculty ratio of 13:1. The college began providing a full-tuition scholarship for all students in fall 2007.

Berea College
Berea College (founded 1855) is a 4-year college located in Berea, Kentucky. There are 1,549 students with a student-faculty ratio of 10:1. All students receive a laptop computer in addition to free tuition. Applicants must demonstrate financial need to be admitted.

College of the Ozarks
College of the Ozarks is a 4-year work college with a religious emphasis located in Point Lookout, Missouri. All students work 15 hours per week plus two 40-hour work weeks during the academic year. There are 1,334 students, with a student-faculty ratio of 14:1.

Cooper Union
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (founded 1859) is a 4-year college located in New York. It offers Bachelor's degrees in art, architecture and engineering, and Master's degrees in architecture and engineering. There are roughly 920 undergraduate students and 50 graduate students. The student-faculty ratio is 9:1. Cooper Union will begin charging tuition for graduate students in 2013-14; undergraduate tuition will remain free.

Curtis Institute of Music
The Curtis Institute of Music (founded 1924) offers degrees in music and is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There are roughly 130 undergraduate and 30 graduate students. The student-faculty ratio is 5:1.

Deep Springs College
Deep Springs College (founded 1917) is an all-male 2-year liberal arts institution located on a 50,000-acre cattle ranch and alfalfa farm in Big Pine, California. Total enrollment is about two dozen. All students work more than 20 hours a week. Most of the students transfer to prestigious four-year colleges after graduation.

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
Olin College (founded 2002) is a 4-year college offering Bachelor's degrees only in engineering and located in Needham, Massachusetts. There are 334 undergraduate students and a 7:1 student-faculty ratio. Due to the economy, Olin College is suspending its 100% full-tuition scholarship starting in 2010-11, replacing it with a 50% tuition scholarship for all students. This means the net cost will be typical of private non-profit colleges.

Saint Louis Christian College
Saint Louis Christian College is a 4-year bible college located in Florissant, Missouri. It offers full tuition scholarships for all full-time students who live in campus housing, and half tuition scholarships for full-time commuter students. The scholarships continue if the student maintains satisfactory academic progress. This financial aid policy began in 2005-2006.

Webb Institute
The Webb Institute is a 4-year college located in Glen Cover, New York. All students double major in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. There are 90 undergraduate students with a student-faculty ratio of 7:1.

William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY
The William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY (established 2001) is a collaborative program of seven CUNY campuses (Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter, Lehman, Queens, and Staten Island). It provides the 1,200 students with a full-tuition scholarship (not including fees) and a laptop computer. Students must maintain a 3.5 GPA to keep the scholarship. Students are discouraged from working.

One-Time Events

It is not unusual for new colleges, especially professional schools, to offer free tuition to the first year's class. In some cases this is designed to generate publicity for a new college. The surge of interest usually causes the college to be one of the most selective colleges in the country. In other cases the colleges offer free tuition because of the difficulty in obtaining financial aid at a new college. It takes roughly two years for a new college to get accredited and approved for participation in federal student aid programs. Examples of colleges that have offered free tuition to their first incoming class include Central Florida College of Medicine in 2008 and the University of California/Irvine School of Law (2009-10).

Other Low Cost Colleges

More than six dozen colleges have adopted generous no loans financial aid policies that substitute grants for loans in the financial aid packages of low-income students. Such no loans policies can significantly reduce college costs, effectively providing free tuition to students with exceptional financial need (e.g., zero EFC students).

Some colleges who are unable to afford to eliminate loans from the financial aid packages have instead opted to adopt level or guarantee tuition rates where the tuition or cost of attendance is locked in for four years.

Free College Courses

Several colleges have made their courses available online for free, but not for credit. These lectures can serve as study aids for students as well as enrichment material for people who aren't interested in a college degree.

These free online college courses include classes available from MIT's OpenCourseWare (which launched the open courseware movement), Carnegie Mellon University's Open Learning Initiative, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Tufts University, University of Notre Dame and Open Yale Courses, as well as more than 100 more free online courses listed at the Open Courseware Consortium. (Other free online educational materials can be found at the Open Educational Resources (OER) Commons.)

There are also collections of free audio and video courses at ITunesU (including Stanford University) and YouTube EDU (including University of California at Berkeley).

Salman Khan, a former financial analyst, has posted thousands of very popular short 10-minute lectures to YouTube as Khan Academy.


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