Go to College for Free: Tuition Free Colleges & Universities

Tuition-Free Colleges and Universities

With college costs sky-rocketing over the past decade and outpacing inflation faster than most industries in the country, it’s hard to imagine that you can actually go to college for free! Yes, that’s right, there are universities and colleges out there that will cover your tuition!

Tuition Free College image

Picture by jmdelacy

While these various universities each have fairly stringent admission requirements, and have relatively small enrollment numbers, they’re worth considering as your high school child starts preparing for college. A few of these schools offer free tuition without any strings attached, however many of them require students to work a part-time job throughout their 4-year education.

7 Tuition Free Schools You Should Consider

1. Cooper Union

Located in New York, NY, Cooper Union specializes in Art, Engineering, and Architecture. The school has an enrollment of approximately 1,000 students, and by doing a little bit of math one can presume that their annual enrollment would be around 250 students.

While Cooper Union offers a tuition free education, there will be expenses that you’re expected to cover such as room and board, meals, textbooks, and any other tools your child may need for their classes.

2. College of the Ozarks

Nicknamed “Hard Work U”, College of the Ozarks located near Branson, Missouri requires each student to work a part-time job 15 hours/week and two additional weeks of 40 hours. The school has a Work Education Program where they have on-campus jobs lined up for each student (so your child doesn’t have to find the job on their own).

Along with financial aid and the compensation through the Work Education Program, students will have a majority of their tuition covered and whatever is not met will be fulfilled by the school’s endowment and scholarship fund.

According to the school’s website they receive approximately 3,000 applications each year and only admit 300-350 students.

3. Alice Lloyd College

Alice Lloyd College is a small school of approximately 600 undergraduate students and is located in Kentucky. Much like the College of the Ozarks, students are required to work a part-time job of 10 hours a week in exchange for the free tuition, and those needing financial assistance to cover room and board will be asked to work 15 hours/week.

With a 7% acceptance rate it will be tough to get into this small school but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t encourage your student to apply. Majors include Business Administration, Biology, Kinesiology, and a myriad of Education-related subjects.

4. Berea College

Located in Berea, Kentucky this school focuses on providing free tuition to promising students who may not have the financial ability to pay for college on their own. With an undergrad enrollment of 1,600 students and a value of $90,000 placed on their 4-year education, Berea may be a great college to consider if you’re a low-income family as their enrollment rate is around 17%.

Berea is another college that requires each student to work an on-campus part-time of 10 hours a week.

5. Olin College of Engineering

This small engineering school located in Needham, Massachusetts sports an enrollment of 350 students. While they do not offer a tuition free education, they do give a half-tuition scholarship to every student that is admitted. With a tuition cost of $40,000/year, that’s an $80,000 scholarship over the 4-year education!

Olin College has extremely stringent admission requirements, so if your child is highly intelligent and interested in pursuing an Electrical, Computer, or Mechanical Engineering degree, then encourage them to look into the small Northeastern school.

6. Curtis Institute of Music

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this school is even smaller than Olin College as they only have an undergrad enrollment of under 200 students!

According to their website, the Curtis Institute of Music “educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level” while offering them a tuition free education.

7. The Academies

While many parents aren’t excited to ship their kids off to the military, the different armed forces branches offer tuition free education in exchange for years of service. The Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine, Military, and Naval Academies are all excellent options when considering a tuition free education.

With the never-ending rise of college tuition costs, it’s always wise to find whatever means possible to save money on your children’s college education. While saving money on books and hunting for scholarships should definitely be on your “to do” list, consider these tuition free universities as you decide which schools to apply for.

Did you know there were this many schools that offered free tuition? Do you think it’s a detriment to have students working part-time jobs instead of partying it up as most college students do?

About the Author

By , on Aug 27, 2012
Andy Tenton
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the publisher of WorkSaveLive.com.

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  1. My high school buddy went to Cooper Union. He was a math genius though!

    I look forward to Europe style FREE education in the US!

  2. Jefferson says:

    This is awesome, Andy.. I really didn’t know that such colleges existed..
    I will definitely check these out.

    I have been thinking about taking a few classes at the local community college to learn some new skills, but those even have a small cost.. This is even better..

    • Andy says:

      I’ve thought about taking classes as well but we’re too cheap to do it. 🙂 I think we’ll attempt to take a language class here in the near future though. Just to do something different and learn a little.

  3. Andy, even the big universities offer old classes/lectured free of cost! Sure you’ll not earn degree but, will learn the same stuff

    • Andy says:

      I think learning is extremely valuable and even though you don’t get a degree it can’t hurt to educate yourself! I wonder how difficult that would be to try to tell somebody in an interview though…

  4. Wow! This post really gripped my attention. I can’t believe there are so many tuition-free (or reduced) colleges at a time where tuitions are so ridiculous. I particularly like the philosophy of the schools like the Ozarks. Kids would do well to understand that college is the time to work hard to prepare for reality rather than party hard in preparation for failure.

  5. Amazing! This is such a great list you’ve put together!

  6. AverageJoe says:

    It’s cool these are tuition free schools. People should be aware, though, that many have a reaons they’re free. Check out the school’s mission before you sign up for something that doesn’t align with your personal belief system.

    • Andy says:

      AJ, you’re correct…I think some of these schools have Christian beliefs but there were some that just offered a free education without any “reasons.”

  7. I didn’t know any of these existed. Thanks for expanding my horizons! It would be nice to see more schools that don’t specialize in music or engineering offering free courses too.

    I do like the idea of having to work part time while going to school. I think that it helps you to learn how to budget you time better. 10 hours /week working isn’t going to cause you to have to drop out of college.

    • Andy says:

      10 hours/week is really a small amount after I thought about it a little more. I think it’s great for the student if their priorities are: classes, studying, work, partying.

  8. Wow, I definitely didn’t know about all these schools that offer free tuition, that’s amazing! I worked while I was in college and feel like I did better on my grades because of it (kind of hard to procrastinate when you have a limited amount of time to finish your schoolwork). It also taught me great time management skills that I’ve utilized to this day. This all sound like very interesting opportunities!

    • Andy says:

      Shannon, I think you bring up some excellent points and those traits/lessons learned were also something we noticed in my wife and she worked 20+ hours/week while going through school.

  9. I remember when Olin opened – one of my friends’ sisters was in their second graduating class. It was totally free back then, and I guess your research shows it’s half-price now, so I think they’ll move to full-price in the near future. They just do that to get students enrolled as they are building their reputation. Olin is actually modeled after my alma mater, I found out a couple years ago.

    • Andy says:

      I read somewhere that it was a tuition free scholarship but their website clearly said only half of the tuition was free. While it’s not a long time the college has been open for a decade. So…I’ll be curious to see if they’ll ever go away with the free tuition if they have enough endowment funds to cover it.

  10. Andy Hough says:

    I don’t live too far from College of the Ozarks so I was aware of it, but hadn’t heard of the others. These are a good option for students who want to save money and don’t need to have the traditional college experience.

  11. Geez, I had no idea so many schools offered free tuition. I know Stanford and a couple of other schools are starting to offer free online college classes of the same level as you would take in the physical classroom itself. I see this being a fantastic opportunity for education. Also, the Khan Academy is an incredible movement in education. If we had a similar movement for higher education then there’s little telling how this world will change.

  12. Andy says:

    🙂 I have a feeling you’ll be saving up to pay for their college though if they’re unable to get in one of the tuition free schools.

  13. I had no idea there was such a thing. These are all accredited?

  14. This makes me want to move! I shutter to think of what I’ll be paying for college in just a few years….

  15. I’m from KY and had no idea those two schools offered free tuition. Great motivation for a student to try and get into one of these. I think a part time job, especially work study, is totally doable. Maybe less time to party as well.

    • Andy says:

      The studies actually show that students that work 20+ hours a week have a better GPA than those that don’t work. I’d say these schools are definitely great motivation to work hard, get good grades, and get a chance to attend a tuition free school!

  16. I had no idea that there were schools that you could go to for free. 10 hours of work a week in exchange? I was doing 20-30 and still couldn’t afford school, this would be awesome ! I wonder if there are any in Canada?

    • Andy says:

      That’s a good question, Gillian. I’m not sure if there are any up that way…maybe I’ll do another post on that if I can find some that are! Thanks for the idea.

  17. Michelle says:

    I honestly didn’t know that there were so many free colleges. And I also didn’t know that there was one so close to me as well.

    • Andy says:

      I was pretty shocked to find out there were this many when I stumbled on a similar article a few years ago. It’s really awesome and I don’t think many families know about the opportunities.

  18. That is really cool that you can go to school for free. Refreshing in an age when university costs so much!

    • Andy says:

      A lot of these schools are only able to do it because of the donations they receive from individuals and past students. It really is a great system and I’d think many students would be willing to give back to the school knowing that they were able to go for free.

  19. Antioch College is tuition free, too, for all accepted students through Spring semester of 2015.

    • Andy says:

      Thanks a lot FF for the additional option. I tried to stick with colleges that had a good history of providing tuition free education and didn’t have a time constraint on their offers.

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