For most college-bound students, free tuition seems like a lovely, but unlikely, dream. You may think that full scholarships are only for super-geniuses and star athletes; you may have accepted that a mountain of student loans is your future – it’s just the price you pay for a college education.
But that’s not the case at all. Nobody deserves to be weighted down with a backbreaking load of debt when they graduate from college, and if you’re strategic about how you make your decisions, you don’t need to be. There are quite a few tuition-free colleges and universities in the US, and plenty of ways to get free tuition at others – you just have to know where to look.
Why We Need Tuition-Free College
It’s a tough time to go to college, financially. Tuition rates are at an all-time high, relative to average income, and the growth rates show no sign of slowing down. Despite calls from many different quarters to lower public college tuition, or to provide free alternatives – it was one of the main planks of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign, after all – tuition costs are up, up, up. The College Board has reported, with some concern, that tuition costs have gone up at public universities for 8 straight years, but financial aid hasn’t kept up. At private universities, and the highest-ranked public flagships, tuition has gone up way faster than inflation – more than double. And it’s been that way for a decade.
What those increases mean is that there’s an ever-widening gap between the cost of college and the means to pay for it. If tuition is low and financial aid is high, there’s no problem; if tuition is high and financial aid is low, the difference has to be made up somehow. Unfortunately, often times that gap is filled with students loans, Parent-Plus loans, and, worst of all, high-interest private loans. Sure, colleges count students loans as “financial aid,” but we know what it means – you’re robbing Future You to pay for Now You.
What Do We Mean By “Tuition-Free”?
“Tuition-free” is a tricky thing to qualify – just like it’s hard to say with any certainty how much a college education really costs. There are several ways you may be able to get a free tuition:
Ivy League and other elite colleges and universities are committed to getting the highest caliber of students, whether they can pay or not. These extremely wealthy universities, with high endowments (the amount of money the college has invested) and generous alumni, usually ensure that all students who are accepted are able to get their education with only scholarships and grants – no loans or out-of-pocket expenses.
US military academies are free to anyone accepted. However, just like the Ivy Leagues, the military academies are extremely selective – only a fraction of students who apply meet the exacting standards, and even then, many will not graduate. But tuition, room, and board are free for everybody who makes the cut.
Low-income, first-generation college students, foster kids, and other underrepresented groups may be able to find programs that allow them to attend college for free. Haskell Indian Nations University, for instance, is free for any Native American tribe member, while Alice Lloyd College is free for any student from the Appalachian Mountains.
Work programs were once very common – in the 19th and early 20th century, through the Great Depression – but a few select colleges still provide free tuition in exchange for student work. College of the Ozarks 67 , for example, maintains that historical tradition – just not with back-breaking farm labor like in the old days.
It’s important to keep in mind that most of the time, even when your tuition is paid for, everything else might not be, and there are many costs associated with a college education that aren’t accounted for in tuition: housing, meals, activity fees, books, supplies, and tickets to the big games (you have to camp out for those).
The tuition-free colleges College Consensus is featuring here are presented according to their current total Consensus score, followed by schools holding only a Student Consensus Score. Schools without any Consensus score at all are presented in alphabetical order. All scores are clearly identified for each institution so you can compare for yourself.
With its status as the central institution in Silicon Valley, Stanford University is, far and away, the most popular “Dream College” of thousands of American students. Founded in 1885 by railroad baron Leland Stanford, Stanford University was intended to be the Cornell of the west, modeled on the Ivy League university that pioneered engineering and applied sciences. But Stanford turned out to be quite more, especially as it took an innovative, entrepreneurial turn following WWII. By encouraging and investing in the technological innovations of its students and faculty, Stanford helped create, essentially, the modern world, centered around Silicon Valley. From Nobel Laureates and Turing Award winners, to internationally known billionaires and companies like Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, and Google, Stanford has made its mark on the past and future.
Stanford has not other ambition but to continue that tradition as long as possible, and the university does that by seeking out the world’s most promising, imaginative, and motivated students. To ensure that they have the very best, Stanford follows the Ivy League’s lead by promising that every accepted student will have their entire financial needs met without student loans. Every student receives scholarships, grants, and other non-loan aid to meet their demonstrated need; nearly half of Stanford students receive need-based aid as well. Almost every students whose family makes under $65,000 a year gets a full scholarship from Stanford, and a great many students complete their degree without paying a dime.
Writing about Harvard University means running out of superlatives; there are not enough words for “best,” “highest,” and “most.” Founded in 1636, Harvard was America’s first college, and the first legal corporation. It is the wealthiest university in the world, with the highest endowment of any college or university, and educated the most US presidents of any institution. Harvard has been ranked the top university in the world for every year of the Academic Ranking of World Universities, although it has fought mightily with Princeton University over the top spot in U.S. News & World Report. In short, Harvard has always exemplified excellence in higher education (and has never been shy about saying so).
Harvard maintains its high reputation by recruiting the top professors, researchers, and administrators in the world, but none of that would matter if the university did not also find the best students. The Harvard Financial Aid Initiative has gone a long way to showing low and middle-income families that Harvard is within reach. Along with its peers in the Ivy League, Harvard makes sure that financial need or hardship never has to be a hindrance to recruiting the world’s top students. American and international students alike have all needs met without student loans, by scholarships, grants, and work study programs. Families making less than $65,000 – 20% of Harvard’s students – pay nothing at all, and a large proportion make it through Harvard with no debt of any kind.
When we talk about the Ivy League, we’re talking about Yale University. The third-oldest university in America, one of the Colonial Colleges (founded in 1701), and a standard for higher education, Yale has been the alma mater of Presidents, Senators, Supreme Court justices, CEOs, and some of the most influential cultural figures in American history. From literature and philosophy to law and business, Yale has been one of the formative institutions in higher education, not only leading research, but establishing standards of academic excellence and building the traditions we consider basic to the American collegiate experience, such as football and Greek life. Yale is regularly ranked as one of the top 3 universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and dominates global rankings as well.
Like other Ivy League institutions, Yale’s wealth (the 2nd highest endowment in the US) and prestige mean that its only priority in recruiting is to find and enroll the highest-performing students in the nation, regardless of income or background. To do so, Yale has pledged to meet the financial needs of every student, even international students and undocumented immigrants covered under DACA. Families making less than $65,000 annually have no required family contribution, and all students have their remaining financial need covered through scholarships, without student loans. In fact, 85% of Yale graduates leave Yale with no debt at all. A free education from Yale is one of the best bargains imaginable.
Princeton University is New Jersey’s Ivy League university and Colonial College, founded in 1746 as the fourth university in the American Colonies. While Princeton was founded as a seminary and college in the Scots-Irish Presbyterian tradition, the school grew far beyond those bounds, helping to fundamentally alter American higher education along the way. As a pioneer in fields ranging from political science to engineering, Princeton has been the home of Nobel Prize, Turing Award, National Medal of Science, and National Medal of Humanities winners in both the faculty and alumni. In addition to billionaires and CEOs, Princeton alumni have included Presidents, members of Congress, and Supreme Court justices. Princeton is regularly ranked among the top 2 or 3 national universities by publications like U.S. News & World Report and Forbes.
Princeton University follows the Ivy League tradition of working to attract and accept the highest caliber of students, which they do not only with the world’s foremost faculty members and industry connections, but extremely generous financial aid. Princeton was the first university in the US to completely eliminate student loans from its financial aid packages, a move followed by many of its Ivy League peers; all demonstrated need it met with scholarships and grants. In fact, every student whose family makes less than $65,000 has 100% of their need met with grants, which never need to be repaid. More than 80% of Princeton grads finish with no debt whatsoever, making Princeton a no-cost investment.
Columbia University is New York’s oldest college, founded in 1754, and joins the other Colonial Colleges as a member of the Ivy League. Columbia has been a deeply connected part of the life of New York City since NYC was an up-and-coming port town, educating business leaders, teachers, artists, writers, and even US Founding Fathers. Columbia’s alumni and faculty doesn’t just consist of Nobel Laureates, National Medal of Science and National Medal of Humanities winners, and even Academy Award winners – Columbia awards the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. Columbia is regularly ranked one of the top 5 universities in the US, and a top 10 in the world.
As one of the three most selective universities in the nation, accepting less than 6% of applicants, Columbia takes its mission to attract the world’s top students very seriously. So seriously, that, along with its Ivy League peers, Columbia helps all students pay for their education without student loans – more than $140 million every year in scholarships and grants. Need-blind applications and need-based financial aid ensures that students from every economic class are represented at Columbia, and students whose families make less than $60,000 never pay at all. With Columbia’s exceptional financial aid, the university keeps the distinction of accepting only the best of the best.
Cornell University is the youngest of the Ivy League, founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, and from its very beginnings Cornell was intended to be different. While the rest of the Ivy League universities (except for Penn) were founded as seminaries, Cornell was the only one founded after the advent of the research university. It was, therefore, the first of the Ivy League to embrace technology and entrepreneurial innovation – a model for later schools like Stanford University. Cornell is regularly ranked among the top 20 universities worldwide and in the US by publications like the Academic Ranking of World Universities and U.S. News & World Report, and has particularly been singled out for its community engagement and impact on social mobility.
Cornell follows the lead of its Ivy League companions in its commitment to destroy any financial barriers that would keep the best and brightest students worldwide from thinking they can go to Cornell. Ezra Cornell founded the university with the goal of providing education for all at a time when college was still primarily for the elite, so Cornell remains dedicated to meeting the needs of low and middle income students without student loans. Students whose families make less than $75,000 annually have all of their demonstrated need met with scholarships and grants – there is no need to take out student loans at all.
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a place of great significance. Eight other universities can claim Colonial College heritage, founded before the American Revolution; other universities, like the University of Virginia, can claim to be founded by one of the United States’ Founding Fathers. But only the University of Pennsylvania was founded by Benjamin Franklin, guided by the same Enlightenment principles of reason, science, and liberty that also build the United States. Penn is home to the US’s first medical school and business school – in fact, Penn was the first university in America to be called a “university.” That tradition continues without slowing down; Penn is consistently ranked one of the top 10 universities in the US, and one of the world’s best.
One reason Penn stays on top is its recruitment. Penn is able to attract many of the strongest students in the world, from all classes and backgrounds, thanks to its need-blind admissions policy (refusing to take income into account) and its need-based financial aid. Simply put, like other Ivy League universities, Penn makes sure everyone accepted into its undergraduate programs have their entire demonstrated need met without student loans. All financial aid is in the form of grants and work study, aid that never needs to be repaid, and most Penn students finish with no debt at all. Lower-income students may have to pay nothing to get an education from the university that defined the American university.
Duke University is a private research institution that was established in 1838. Located in Durham, North Carolina, it was founded by a group of both Methodists and Quakers as Trinity College. The undergraduate liberal arts college within the university still bears the Trinity College name. The campus spans over 8,500 acres on three contiguous campuses. Duke is known for the high level of research conducted on campus, and has the 7th highest research expenditure for any university in the country. They are also the home of 37,000 employees, making them the second largest employer in the country. The main campus highlights the famous Duke Chapel in the center of campus, which offers the highest point of elevation.
Duke University offers the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program to a select number of young people invested in creating societal transformation. Annually, this program selects a diverse body of students who show such promise and potential. Each recipient receives a four-year scholarship, which includes full undergraduate tuition, room and board, as well as coverage additional required expenses. Scholars are given three summers of international and domestic experiences, as well as participation in professional development and leadership opportunities. Scholars also have access to alumni, staff and a community of peer scholars. Many principles of collaboration, community building and change making are fostered throughout the scholarship experience, providing students with valuable skills that will impact their life and career journeys.
Dartmouth College was the last of the nine colleges founded before the American Revolution – the Colonial Colleges – beginning in 1769. Originally, Dartmouth’s mission was to bring Christianity and Christian education to the Native Americans, but eventually the school settled into a seminary for Congregational ministers. Dartmouth remained small and little-known among the Ivy League until the 20th century, when the college began developing into a research university more like its peers. While it retains the name “college” and is the smallest of the Ivy League schools, Dartmouth is a comprehensive, doctoral-level research university regularly ranked one of the nation’s best undergraduate educators. U.S. News recognizes Dartmouth as the #11 national university in the US – not bad for the little guy.
Dartmouth, like its fellow Ivy League universities, makes sure every student accepted has their financial needs met without the need for student loans, although the college has not eliminated student loans entirely. They are, however, even more generous to their low and middle-income students than their peers – no students whose family makes less than $100,000 a year has to pay anything for their education. Students pay their tuition with scholarships and work study jobs on campus, and though students or their families may still take out loans to help with expenses, loans are never figured in to a student’s financial aid package. This plan helps Dartmouth keep the very best students coming to the best little Ivy League college.
Brown University is one of the most prestigious and influential universities in American history. Founded in 1764, Brown is one of the nine historical Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution, and an original Ivy League university. Brown’s influence can be seen across American higher education; it was the first university in the US to admit students regardless of religious affiliation, and the first Ivy League institution to start an engineering program. Brown also pioneered curriculum reform in the 20th century with the New Curriculum, often called the Brown Curriculum; by eliminating general education courses, Brown was the first university to allow students to set their own academic path in either pass/no-credit courses. Brown is ranked as one of the top 20 universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and counts Nobel Laureates, MacArthur geniuses, and Supreme Court justices among its alumni.
Like many of its Ivy League counterparts, Brown University offers extremely generous financial aid. Since 2008, the Brown Promise has been in place to guarantee that all students who are accepted into an undergraduate program at Brown have their entire need met without loans. In 2017, Brown announced that loans would be removed from financial aid packages altogether – after calculating family contribution, all of a student’s remaining costs would be paid through scholarships and campus employment. While students can still choose to take out loans on their own, Brown makes sure that it is unnecessary, even for the lowest-income students. As such, Brown’s application is entirely need-blind; students are accepted entirely based on their merit, not their ability to pay.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is colloquially known as UNC, or UNC Chapel Hill. They are a public research institution, known for high research activity. The campus is located on a 729-acre campus is Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is situated in the heart of Chapel Hill, encompassing much of the downtown area, and includes the Morehead Planetarium. UNC was the first public institution of higher education in North Carolina, and began enrolling students in 1795. The student enrollment now is close to 30,000, and their athletics mascot is the Tarheel. They are a campus known for their spirit, which not only includes countless sports teams and recreational events, but 550 student-run organizations. They are also home to the student radio station WXYC which provided the first internet radio broadcast internationally.
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill shares the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program with Duke University, where they select several young leaders who are invested in creating social change. This is a prestigious program that honors a diverse group of students who have shown stellar academic achievement and leadership within their communities. Each recipient receives a four-year scholarship, which includes full undergraduate tuition, room and board, as well as coverage additional required expenses. Scholars are given three summers of international and domestic experiences, as well as participation in professional development and leadership opportunities. Scholars also have access to alumni, staff and a community of peer scholars.
Vanderbilt University is a private research institution located on a 330-acre campus in Nashville, Tennessee. Established in 1871, the school was named for Cornelius Vanderbilt, a philanthropist who helped get the school of the ground by donating 1 million dollars in hopes to restore some of the glory of the area after the Civil War. Vandy, as it known by familiars, enrolls over 12,500 students annually, and employs nearly 4,000 academic staff members. The Vanderbilt athletic teams have been a founding member of the Southeastern Athletic Conference for the last 50 years, and the school has been the only private school associated with the conference since it was developed.
Vanderbilt University offers a valuable opportunity called the Ingram Scholarship Program, which supports students to think critically, while seeking answers to some of the world’s most complex problems. All of this coupled with preparing them for a successful career in the professional world. Students who engage with the program are required to work within nonprofit groups and governmental organizations, and meanwhile create self-sustaining projects. The benefits of receiving the Ingram Scholarship include receiving full-tuition plus a stipend for summer projects in service. Students are required to maintain 20 hours per week of service while receiving these benefits. Students who emerge from this program will be part of a lifelong network of scholars that will benefit their careers and future endeavors.
United States Merchant Marine Academy
Kings Point, NY
The Merchant Marine is a branch of the military whose duties include shipping and receiving cargo across the waterways of the world, as well as transporting members of the U.S. military during wartime. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, also known as USMMA or Kings Point, is one of the five United States service academies. It is one of seven United States maritime academies. The USMMA trains officers for the United States Merchant Marine, branches of the military, and the transportation industry. Students at the academy focus on one of two different academic areas of education: marine transportation or marine engineering. Transportation students learn about ship navigation, cargo handling, navigation rules, and maritime law. Engineering students learn about the function of the ship’s engines and its supporting systems. Students are known as either deck majors, or engine majors, respectively.
As with each of the military service academies, the USMMA offers this highly selective program, 4-year education to young people without the expectation of tuition. Officers who graduate the USMMA must make a commitment to maintaining their license as a merchant mariner for 6 years following graduation. They must also serve 5 years as either a merchant marine officer aboard a U.S. military or civilian ship or with a maritime-related profession. If they prefer, they could otherwise serve 5 years of active duty service as a commissioned officer in any of the US Uniformed Services including the Coast Guard, Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines, or others.
College of the Ozarks
Point Lookout, MO
The College of the Ozarks is a co-educational, Christian liberal arts school. The college was founded in 1906, and was originally envisioned as a high school. Instead, the site was developed as a postsecondary institution. Their campus is in the town of Point Lookout near Hollister, Missouri on a 1,000-acre campus overlooking Lake Taneycomo. Their mission centers around providing a comprehensive Christian education to those they deem deserving, and especially to those who do not have the financial means. They believe in developing patriotic leaders in the Christian faith with a foundation of ethics, specifically strong work ethics.
One of the things that makes the College of the Ozarks special is their commitment to “no tuition.” What this means is that including their comprehensive work program coupled with federal and state grants, plus The College of the Ozarks scholarship, students have no out-of-pocket expenses to achieve an undergraduate education. To make this work, each student who participates in the work program, works for 15 hours per week, on top of two 40-hour work weeks per school year. Friends of the college specifically support this Christian-centered practice when contributing money to the scholarship program that allows students of all economic backgrounds to achieve a valuable education.
Berea College was established in 1855 in Berea, Kentucky, and was the first college in the American south the be both co-education and racially integrated. They first opened their doors as a one-room school house that also hosted church services on Sundays. Berea is now a four-year liberal arts institution, known for their free tuition. They feature 32 courses of study with the outcome of a bachelor’s degree. They also feature innovative work-study programs that engage all students. Institutionally, they are known for their racial inclusivity, as one third of their student body is either an ethnic minority, and/ or an international student.
Berea College is widely known for offering high-quality education, with no tuition for any of their students. Accepted students pay close to $1,000 per year for their housing, food and fees, and have access to financial assistance for books. To make the free tuition possible, each student is required to work 10 hours of work study per week, which can be applied to working in service jobs on or around campus, or to selling their crafts in college sponsored craft venues. Many students who have attended Berea made note of the fact that they were able to focus so much more on their studies knowing they would be graduating with significantly less debt than most other academic options.
Blackburn College is a private four-year liberal-arts college in Carlinville, Illinois. They were originally named for Revered Gideon Blackburn, and were established in 1837. Their affiliation has remained with the Presbyterian Church since their inception. They are considered a federally recognized work-college, and are one of eight in the country. Commuters to the college from the surrounding areas are not required to work, but all residential students are. Blackburn is considered the least expensive private school to attend in the state of Illinois. They are a member of the Council of Independent Colleges, and are accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Blackburn College recently announced their free tuition program which enables many students from the state of Illinois to attend Blackburn for free. This is the first of its kind in the state, and especially is in service to students from the state of Illinois who come from low- and moderate-income households. Dr. John Comerford was inaugurated as Blackburn College’s 16th president in 2017, and upon his inauguration announced this new program. Students who qualify must of course first be accepted to the college and then receive their full Pell Grant, while also participating in other state-based tuition programs. Students are also required to enroll in the work study opportunity in order to become a student resident on campus.
Warren Wilson College
Warren Wilson College has a unique mission, as it centralizes the desire to make a difference in the world. They are a liberal arts college that emphasizes social responsibility in all their programming. The campus is located on 1,135 acres of land between mountains and forest with many farms, very close to Asheville, North Carolina. In fact, much of the food served on campus is also grown on campus, and harvested by the students themselves. They offer 45 programs of study, with embedded encouragement for students to tailor their own courses of study based on what is already being offered. This is a small school boasts only 753 students in the undergraduate program, small class sizes and student/faculty ratios.
Warren Wilson College exercises a commitment to their students that their education should not be cost prohibitive. They admit the brightest, and most inquisitive/ committed students regardless of their ability to afford their education. They offer a free tuition program for students who require the support, and they also remain affordable for all students. Financial aid is a component of this affordable opportunity also, as 100 percent of their student body receives some form of it. The free tuition opportunity comes from the NC Free Tuition Plan, and the Milepost One Scholarship. All students also meet the eligibility requirements for the Merit Scholarships, which can add up to over $18,000, while also having access to work-grants.
Glen Cove, NY
The Webb Institute of New York calls itself An Exceptional College of Engineering, and the professionals produced there seem to agree. They are a unique institution, offering only one course of study, a double major in Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture. Webb Institute provides students with opportunities that are career oriented, offering all the latest in cutting edge expertise in these particular fields of study. Students will glean an unmatched background in the disciplines related to the arts and humanities, while engaging with the highest of ethical standards and professionalism in fundamental skills related to Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. Students will learn how to make significant contributions to the fields at hand.
Not only is the programming at Webb Institute exceptional, but they offer each student who is accepted a full-tuition scholarship, making it accessible to everyone, regardless of economic status. They also offer need-based funding for students who require support with the additional costs required to be a full-time residential student. In this way that can be sure that the educational opportunities they are offering are not cost-prohibitive to the brightest future engineers they may find. To receive comprehensive funding, students must be US citizens and properly fill out all the necessary paperwork, while reporting any changes of circumstance and/ or address to the financial aid office, in a timely manner, to not hold up the process.
Yellow Springs, OH
Antioch College is located in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and holds true to their motto We Boldly go, by being known for their progressive politics and approaches to learning. They value giving students the opportunity to experience a variety of ways of to engage with the world and their communities. They do this by giving students comprehensive experiential learning opportunities. Students alternate between academic terms where they are in a classroom learning, and where they are on what is called “co-op” experiences, where they work full-time in an environment of their choosing. Co-op courses often give students the experience of navigating complex situations, enhancing their understanding of their future professional landscape.
One of the perks of attending Antioch College is reaping the benefits of the institutions commitment to affordability. Part of their mission statement includes the value that money should not be a barrier to education. The school itself committed to placing $7.5 million towards grants and scholarships for all of their students. Student aid on average equals $34,250 per student. They base student tuition on an algorithm of need based on the families’ income and what federal aid the student is entitled to. Students are required to live on campus and have a meal plan when they are not participating in their co-op experiences.
Haskell Indian Nations University
Haskell Indian Nations University first opened its doors in Lawrence Kansas in 1884. Their goal was, and remains, to serve the Native American and Alaska Native Community communities across the united states. Originally Haskell was an institution for students in grades 1-5, designed to train students in agricultural education. Since 1970 Haskell Indian Nations University has been an exclusively postsecondary institution, and has been known as a national center for Indian cultural preservation, education and research. Currently, they have near 1,000 students enrolled per semester, and a student body that represents a diverse range of federally recognized tribes from across the nation.
Haskell Indian Nations University offers a unique structure that enables accessibility to their students and the tribes for which they belong. It is made clear that both the students and the tribe have significant benefits from students’ attendance, as each tribe that sends a student is saved near $20,000 annually in tuition and fees, enabling the tribe to spend the money on other community needs and resources/ programs. Their mission is to offer free tuition to all students who come from a federally recognized tribe of Alaskan Natives and American Indians. Incidental costs are not included, though students can still have the opportunity to graduate with a minimal debt burden.
Alice Lloyd College
Pippa Passes, KY
Alice Lloyd College is a private, four-year liberal arts institution located in Pippa Passas, Kentucky. It was established in 1923 and has deep commitments to contributing leadership skills and comprehensive education to Appalachian Region. They offer 18 degree programs, and 8 professionally oriented programs. Faculty and staff at Alice Lloyd College are student centered in their approach to pedagogy, and therefore have a 20:1 students to faculty ratio. Nearly 75% of students are first generation college students. The US News and World Report has named this institution as the top college in the United States for students to graduate with the least amount of debt.
Alice Lloyd College offers students who originate from the region free tuition. Their commitment to mountain students runs deep, regardless of their economic status. They are one of the few institutions in the country who carry a mission statement to help students reduce their debts while still having access to high quality postsecondary education. They were originally founded as “The College of Appalachia,” and from the start, ensured that every student who was qualified and from the 108-county service region will be awarded with The Appalachian Leaders College Scholarship, which provides the cost of tuition for as many as 10 semesters.
Barclay College was established by Quaker settlers in 1917, and was initially named the Kansas Central Bible Training School. Their main campus is located in between the towns of Dodge City and Pratt, in south-central Kansas. The campus sits on 20 acres of land in a quaint and friendly community, though it is just minutes from services that a larger town has to offer. They provide a strong biblical foundation, and are open to all evangelical faith traditions. Barclay has unique program offerings, such as a bachelor’s program in Psychology and Biblical Counseling, Youth Ministry, Pastoral Ministry, and Worship/ Arts and theology.
Supporters of Barclay College believe students should be entitled to a comprehensive, high-quality Christian education, and ensure that qualified students have such access. Many students, therefore, receive an immediate $15,000 full tuition scholarship upon acceptance. Not only is it possible to graduate at Barclay without accumulating any debt, they are also committed to the college application process being accessible to students and therefore offer a free application process to all students regardless of economic status. Though the online programming is not as funded as the residential, undergraduates still receive $600 in scholarship money to study online through any of the accredited, online education models offered at Barclay.
Central Christian College of the Bible
Central Christian College of the Bible is built on the premise of creating as many Christian servant-leaders as possible, and therefore making their education accessible. This institution, located in Moberly, Missouri is based on a series of Christian core value that include affordable Christ-centered education, while continuing the legacy of the restoration movement. This movement is governed by non-denominational independent churches, that base their beliefs on the return to the church, as it is written in the old testament. They were founded in 1957, and have withheld the same mission and values since inception. They are fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education.
Central Christian College of the Bible holds strong values around supporting students to have the best education possible, that supports Christ-centered leadership, that is affordable. Each semester the college offers 100 full tuition scholarships to both new students and transfer students. Each student should be admitted to attend classes on the Moberly campus, and they must be enrolled in a certificate or degree program. This opportunity to receive a full tuition award covers up to 17 hours per semester for students who are residential or commuters. Each student must achieve high standards as far as both grades and a commitment to Christian service to maintain the award.
City College of San Francisco
City College of San Francisco was founded in 1935 to fight Depression-era unemployment and juvenile delinquency; in turn, CCSF proved to make a massive impact on the city of San Francisco, becoming a crucial part of technical and career education in the Bay Area. Its original nickname, Trolly-Car College, reflected its scattered campuses, but by providing opportunity to people across the growing city of San Francisco, City College established a life-changing, urban presence. With some of the nation’s most beautiful public artworks (including works by Diego Rivera and Frederick Olmsted), CCSF is the heart of San Francisco – practical education for the people.
City College of San Francisco continues to ensure educational opportunity and access for all of San Francisco’s people. With San Francisco’s prominence in the modern tech economy, the city is rapidly becoming unaffordable for ordinary people, so to combat gentrification and increase access, CCSF made the bold step in 2017 to offer free tuition to any California resident living in San Francisco. In less than a year, enrollment increased dramatically (16%), and the initiative is proving to be one of the most important experiments in American higher culture. City College of San Francisco means to show that when the people are given the opportunity, they will do great things.
Curtis Institute of Music
The Curtis Institute of Music is a renowned institution that trains some of the most gifted young musicians, and gives them the tools to engage in their communities and global sphere with an artistic approach to the world. They are known as being one of the most competitive and selective post-secondary schools for music in the nation, accepting only four percent of their applicants annually. Their student body consists of 175 enrolled students at a time. This practice maintains an intimacy and low student to faculty ratio. Their primary philosophy centers on a “learn by doing” approach to pedagogy, as well as institutional diversity, adaptability and flexibility.
Curtis Institute of Music, since its inception in 1928, has maintained an all-scholarship policy. Regardless of students financial and economic status, every accepted student receives a merit based/ full-tuition scholarship. This policy includes both graduate and undergraduate students, and these benefits are renewed each year that the student is enrolled. There is no financial aid application requirement for any students. If students require further financial aid, there are many work study options that include on-campus employment in a variety of disciplines. There are additional supplemental grants which may include housing and dining options for students who may require such support. Students are, however, expected to utilize non-Curtis support options prior to seeking supplemental funding.
Deep Springs College
Deep Springs College is unlike other postsecondary institutions, as it was founded explicitly on the premises of self-government, academics, and manual labor. Originally established in 1917, it is located on a remote cattle ranch in Deep Springs, California, 40 miles away from the town of Bishop. Only 12 to 15 students are admitted each year, and all are expected to commit to a life of service to humanity. The career paths of alumni have included politicians, journalists, lawyers, among many other professions. Classes are generally not larger than 8 students and most often occur outside in the desert. The student body is charged with admitting future students, hiring faculty and reviewing student performances.
Deep Springs College offers a full scholarship, which includes room, board and tuition to every student admitted into this unique school. This scholarship opportunity is awarded regardless of the students’ financial need. There are, however, additional scholarships that can provide aid for incidental expenses and travel for students with financial need. To achieve admission students must have a second interview on campus, and there are funds to cover this cost for students who need it, so as not to exclude anyone from the application process. Transfer students are welcomed to apply, though application is not open to students who have already achieved a postsecondary degree at another institution.
Ecclesia College is an institution that is structured around building leadership in society, specifically to support Christ-centered values. Ecclesia was established in 1975 by a family who were ministry veterans. They are known for their foundational bible-based education and their investment in lifelong learning as a significant aspect of their mission. Institutionally, they value the belief that they are engaging the inclusion of the whole body of Christ, as a form of maintenance of the holy spirit of unity. Through their academic excellence they engage in visionary relationships to a holy spirit as a form of transformation and glory.
One of the aspects of Ecclesia College that makes them a unique institution of higher education is their work learning program. Students are given the opportunity to learn valuable workforce training skills, while completing their education. This option significantly reduces tuition to attend Ecclesia, while providing a multitude of opportunity for students to build character while gaining both significant life experiences as well as on the job training. All resident students, regardless of economic status, are given the opportunity to participate in this program as are many non-resident students. It is a point of pride that the average Ecclesia College student graduates with less than $10,000 in college debt because of this program.
Sterling College (VT)
Craftsbury Common, VT
Sterling College in Vermont is situated in Craftsbury Common, Vermont, and is a four-year postsecondary institution with an environmental focus. Their mission is singularly focused: To help you become a deeply committed environmental steward in all areas of your life. Participating in the programming at Sterling gives students a comprehensive framework for food security, agricultural sustainability, climate change and social justice. Sterling offers five bachelor’s degree programs that are environmentally focused, and one that is self-designed. The goal of each program is to create well-rounded and innovative environmental stewards that know how to deeply engage with the natural world.
Sterling College in Vermont sustains a commitment to affordability in relation to mission and vision of environmental stewardship education. Their programming is naturally much less expensive than most postsecondary institutions in New England, but can still be cost prohibitive, therefore, they commit that students from Sterling will not graduate with overwhelming amounts of debt. They offer a significant amount of needs based grants for students, so they can focus on the mission of environmental education, and not be forced to work in other disciplines while completing their education. They support sharing of textbooks to cut down on costs, and are transparent about any additional expenses like health insurance that students will be responsible for.
University of the People
The University of the People is an entirely distance learning university, that features a select number of programs. Founded in 2009 and headquartered in California, they offer associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in three accredited programs: The Health Science, Computer Science program, and the Business Administration program. University of the People also newly offers an accredited Master’s in Business Administration program. World Champion gymnast, Simone Biles is a former student of UoPeople and is employed as spokesperson and ambassador of the university model. As a former foster child, she encourages all people who come from struggle to find and create accessible university programming like this to one.
The most important value that University of the People holds, says founder Shai Reshef, is that it remains tuition free for all students. Some programs require small administrative fees, and there are also fees associated with some of the exams associated, but scholarships are available to students who cannot afford these. The way this university model is possible is the dedicated volunteer faculty, many of whom also teach at Ivy League and other highly ranked colleges and universities. UoPeople is gaining momentum, and leaders in the university believe that everyone should have access to quality higher education, regardless of where they live and how much they can afford.
United States Air Force Academy
The United States Air Force Academy is a U.S. military service college, serving students who are officers in training in the U.S. Air Force. Also known as USAFA or The Academy, it is located in Colorado, immediately north of Colorado Springs in El Paso County. The Academy was established in 1954, after nearly 40 years of the Air Force stating a clear need of a comparable institution as those of the U.S. Army in West Point Academy and the Navy had in the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. For the most part, graduates of the Academy’s four-year program receive a Bachelor of Science degree, and are commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force.
As with each of the military service academies, the USAFA offers officer cadets free tuition, and room and board, in exchange for their service in the United States military. Valued by the Air Force as a more than $400 thousand education, the career service commitment varies in the length of time, but each U.S. born graduate is expected to serve as a commissioned officer in the Air Force for at least eight years after graduation, five of which must be active duty and the remainder can be served as inactive reserve. Officers will become eligible to request a separation from the Air Force after five years of service. Officer cadets who cannot or do not wish to complete any period of active duty beyond graduation may be required to reimburse the U.S. government for a proportion of the cost of their Academy education.
United States Coast Guard Academy
The U.S. Coast Guard Academy is a U.S. military service university, serving students who are officers in training in the U.S. Coast Guard. The USCGA is located in New London, Connecticut, on the beautiful Thames River. Graduates from this four-year academy earn a Bachelor of Science degree. Each year, approximately 200 graduates are commissioned as junior officers, or “ensigns”. Upon graduation, newly commissioned ensigns report for duty aboard massive arctic Coast Guard ships called cutters, and at sector offices in ports nationwide. Graduates are obligated to serve five years in the U.S. Coast Guard, though may choose to make a career of their maritime military service.
As with each of the military service academies, the USCGA offers cadets tuition and room and board at no cost. All cadets also receive what is essentially a stipend of approximately $12 thousand per year to cover the cost of uniforms, military equipment, academic supplies including textbooks, and personal expenses. These funds are intended to cover all official expenses incurred over the four years of attendance and are deposited every other week into the student’s personal banking account. Ensigns are expected to serve a five-year commitment as a commissioned Coast Guard officer after graduation from the Coast Guard Academy. Nearly 80% of Academy graduates go directly to sea on ships or other vessels, although some do other vastly important maritime jobs to serve the Coast Guard.
United States Military Academy at West Point
The US Military Academy at West Point, or simply West Point, was founded in 1801, when President Thomas Jefferson planned to establish a training academy to produce career officers who would lead the military. The site would be in West Point, upstate New York, and would occupy the site of a federal military reservation, and the oldest occupied military base in the country. Today, candidates for admission to West Point must both apply directly to the academy and receive a nomination, usually from a member of Congress or the U.S. President or Vice President. Students are officers in training and are referred to as “cadets”.
As with each of the military service academies, tuition for cadets is fully funded by the Army in exchange for an active duty service obligation upon graduation. Cadets receive a stipend of around one thousand dollars per month to pay for uniforms, books, and other requirements for their education. Officers entering military service upon graduation are expected to serve a total of 8 years’ military service obligation. They can choose their service to be on active duty or in the Reserve Components, in either enlisted or officer status. Most graduates are commissioned as second lieutenants in the Army. Approximately 1,300 cadets enter the Academy each year, with about 1,000 cadets reaching graduation.
United States Naval Academy
The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland is the undergraduate college of the U.S. Navy. The Naval Academy, also called simply Annapolis, prepares young people to become professional officers in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Naval Academy students are considered midshipmen, on active duty in the U.S. Navy. They attend the academy for four years, and graduate with a bachelor of science degree. Graduates of the USNA are eventually commissioned as “ensigns” in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps. Naval Academy graduates serve at least five years in the Navy or Marine Corps upon graduation from Annapolis, and are expected to serve another three years on active duty or as reservists.
As with each of the military service academies, the Navy pays for the tuition, room, and board, medical and dental care costs of Naval Academy midshipmen. Additionally, midshipmen who are enrolled and in good standing enjoy regular active-duty benefits including access to military commissaries and exchanges, commercial transportation and lodging discounts and the ability to fly, space-available, in military aircraft around the world. Midshipmen are paid $1,087.80 monthly, with which they are expected to pay for laundry, barber, cobbler, activities fees, yearbook and other services during their education at the USNA. Midshipmen are also entitled to counseling to promote mental adjustment and wellness throughout the course of their undergraduate experience.
Williamson College of the Trades
Williamson College of the Trades is a men’s junior vocational college founded in 1888, by Philadelphia-based Merchant and Philanthropist Isaiah Vansant Williamson. The campus is located on 220 acres of land in Middletown, Pennsylvania, near the town Media, a suburb of Philadelphia. This vocational school comes from the foundation of Judeo-Christian thought, though is not affiliated with any specific sect or religious belief system. They do, however, believe in supporting a highly disciplined lifestyle, and encourage this in all students, faculty and staff. All students are required to live on campus for three years of study, while also being required to attend Chapel Service each morning. Graduates are granted an associate’s degree in their field of choice, or they can choose a diploma in Carpentry or Masonry.
Williamson College of the Trades offers each student full scholarships that include tuition, room, textbooks, board, among other costs. Students, however, are required to cover the costs of their own health insurance, as well as various tools and personal items required to be successful in program. There is an annual shop fee that is also mandatory, which varies from one program to another. To remain eligible, students will be required to have regular drug tests and immunizations, and those who participate in athletics are required to have a regular physical examination. Williamson is committed to providing students with affordable options towards innovative career paths.
Williamson E. Macaulay Honors College (CUNY)
Williamson E. Macaulay Honors College (CUNY) is CUNY’s most highly selective college that receives some of New York’s most promising young minds, and gives them the tools to be successful as students and also as graduates. One of the important aspects of this institution is the support they provide for their students. This includes extensive advising options, and has the highest advisor-to-student ratio of any other Honors Colleges in the United States. As a result of this and other policies, the Macaulay Honors College has received some of the highest ratings among public honors colleges and programs. They are known as the premier Honors College of New York City. In 2018 one of their students became a prestigious Rhodes Scholar, the most recent in a list of other alumni accolades.
The Williamson E. Macaulay Honors College offers each of their students a merit scholarship package, unlike any other in the city. The package includes tuition, a laptop computer, and access to the Opportunities Fund (subject to the availability of funds). Students will also receive the Cultural Passport, a photo ID card that both allows access into the Macaulay building and provides amazing access to many of New York’s cultural riches including art, cultural, and history museums, and other educational and entertaining attractions around the city. Students who meet CUNY New York State residency requirements for in-state tuition have the opportunity to graduate free from tuition debt thanks to the tuition scholarship. It covers four years of undergraduate study excluding fees and expenses.