Do tuition-free colleges actually exist? Yes. The words “free” and “college tuition” are normally not found in the same sentence, however, students looking for a college or even an Ivy League education with the option of either free tuition or other financial assistance can start their journey reviewing this informative article for some of the best colleges and universities offering this unique opportunity.
Over the last 30 years, tuition has increased 1,120 percent and according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), college tuition has risen three times as fast as the consumer-price index and twice as fast as medical care in the past decade.
The following information gives a brief glimpse at recent average tuition costs and fees:
The College Board reports the 2013–14 tuition and fees:
• Public, four-year, in-state students: $8,893
• Public, four-year, out-of-state students: $22,203
• Private, nonprofit, four-year: $30,094
• For-profit schools: $15,130
In addition to the rising cost of tuition, student debt is also a growing problem. According to CNN Money, “the average debt load for the class of 2012 was $29,400.
The list of tuition-free colleges below not only provides tuition-free private and state colleges but also Ivy League universities as well. Ivy League schools are some of the most prestigious and expensive schools in the U.S, however, this education can actually be affordable.
Many schools offer free tuition and other financial assistance for students from families with an income below a specific target. In addition, the Ivy League schools listed have a “no-loans” policy, meaning they provide grants instead of loans.
Table of Contents:
Best Colleges Providing Free Tuition:
- Alice Lloyd College
- Antioch College
- Barclay College
- Berea College
- College of the Ozarks
- Curtis Institute of Music
- Deep Springs College
- Macaulay Honors College at City University of New York (CUNY)
- Webb Institute
- Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades
Best Colleges Providing Free Tuition Based on Family Income:
- Cornell University
- Duke University
- Harvard University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Princeton University
- Stanford University
- Texas A&M University
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Vanderbilt University
- Yale University
Best Colleges Providing Free Tuition
Alice Lloyd College
Established in 1923, Alice Lloyd College, a four-year, Christian-centered, liberal arts, offers pre-professional and bachelor’ degree programs. The college enrollment includes around 600 students. Alice Lloyd College has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio and accepts, on average, 18% of its applicants.
Additional Alice Lloyd College highlights include:
* Alice Lloyd College ranked #40 in the U.S. News & World Report 2014 edition of Best Colleges in Regional Colleges (South).
* SAT test scores (25th/75th percentile) are as follows: Critical reading: 460/590; math: 420/520; and writing: 440/480.
Students at the tuition-free college are required to work at least 160 hours per semester in an on-campus job or in the local community in the Student Work Program. The cost of living in a dormitory is about $1,900 annually.
Founded in 1850, Antioch College is a private liberal arts college in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The school has a commitment to social justice. Antioch College is the only institution in the nation, for the past 90 years, with a required co-op program for all students. Students work in a cooperative setting for four quarters during their enrollment. This practical work experience helps prepare students for future careers.
Additional Antioch College highlights include:
* In 2012, only around five percent of applicants received acceptance letters, making Antioch one of the more selective colleges in the U.S.
* Students enrolled in the class of 2017 have an average ACT score of 26, an SAT of 1160, and a GPA of 3.62.
* The Huffington Post recognized Antioch College in its “Top Non-Traditional Colleges” list alongside Brown University, the New School, Wesleyan and others.
Antioch College is extending its free tuition offer only one last time to students who are admitted for the 2014-2015 school year. They will receive the four-year, tuition-free package worth at least $121,000.
Barclay College, established in 1918, a four-year Quaker Bible school located in Haviland, Kansas, has an enrollment of about 250 students. The college does welcome students from all evangelical faiths.
The program provides bachelor’s degree programs in Pastoral Ministry, Youth Ministry, Sports and Recreational Leadership, Christian Elementary Education, Business Administration, and other programs. Barclay also offers Associate’s degrees in Biblical Studies and General Studies, a distance learning program as well as other certificates and degree programs.
Additional Barclay College highlights include:
* Barclay College has a 49% admission rate.
* The college received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation, of the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).
Students receiving full-tuition scholarship are required to live in on-campus housing. The scholarship is worth $11,000 per year and a student’s cost is $10,990. The scholarship, however, does not cover the cost of room, board and fees.
Established in 1855, Berea College located in Berea Kentucky, a private liberal arts college, provides degrees in 28 fields. The college encompasses about 1,500 undergraduate students from all 50 states and about 60 countries; however, the majority of the students are from Appalachia.
Additional Berea College highlights include:
* Berea College has an 11:1 student/faculty ratio.
* The Princeton Review named the college as one of the best colleges in the Southeast.
* Berea College Ranked #76 in the U.S. News & World Report 2014 edition of Best Colleges in National Liberal Arts Colleges.
* The college has an 11% acceptance rate, and a 79.5% average freshman retention rate.
Berea College does not charge tuition and awards a four-year tuition scholarship to every admitted student (amounts to nearly $100,000). However, every student is required to work at least 10 hours per week in campus-approved jobs.
This scholarship also works in accordance with any other grants or scholarships students receive. The college may cover other costs such as room/board and fees; most students receive additional aid for these costs. About one in four students at the college are able to graduate debt-free.
College of the Ozarks
Founded in 1906, College of the Ozarks is a private, Christian liberal arts college located in Point Lookout, Missouri. The college has an enrollment of 1,500, a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio and over 30 academic majors.
College of the Ozarks offers pre-professional programs and credentials and certificates as well as degrees in both Bachelors of Arts and Bachelors of Science.
Additional College of the Ozarks highlights include:
* The college ranked #10 in the 2014 U.S. News & World Report edition of the Best Colleges in Regional Colleges (Midwest).
* Forbes ranked the school #21 in the Midwest.
College of the Ozarks is a tuition-free college for full-time students. About ninety percent of applicants are required to show financial need to get accepted. Students are required to work 15 hours a week at an on-campus work station and a 40-hour work week during breaks. The school provides a summer work program to cover the cost of room and board.
Curtis Institute of Music
Established in 1924, Curtis Institute of Music located in Philadelphia, PA offers courses of study leading to a performance diploma. Such degrees include a Bachelor of Music, Master of Music in Opera or a Professional Studies Certificate in Opera. Curtis Institute of Music, known as one of the leading conservatories in the world, provides training and education to gifted musicians for careers as performing artists at the highest professional level.
With an enrollment of only 165 students and a low acceptance rate of 4%, the school’s trained instrumentalists hold 16% of the principal chairs of the top 25 U.S. orchestras.
Additional Curtis Institute of Music highlights include:
* Graduates have performed at the Metropolitan Opera.
* The school does not have minimum or maximum age requirements.
* Graduates have gone on to receive Tony and Grammy Awards and Guggenheim Fellowships.
* All applicants must audition in person, the school selects individuals based on artistic talent.
The Curtis Institute of Music provides merit-based full-tuition scholarships for all its students. The 2013-14 school year scholarship value was $37,600 for undergraduate students and $50,100 for graduate students. No financial aid application is required for the full-tuition scholarship. The school bases financial assistance for living expenses entirely on need.
Deep Springs College
Deep Springs College, a private, two-year alternative college in Deep Springs, California. With, has a student body of only 26 or lower. The students may elect to attain an associate’s degree, but many decide to complete their studies at some of the most prestigious universities in the world. Two-thirds of students eventually earn a graduate degree, half earn a doctorate.
This alternative institution, founded on the three pillars of academics, labor and self-governance, allows its students to have unprecedented decision making authority regarding curriculum, admissions and hiring of faculty.
Additional Deep Springs College highlights include:
* Admissions rate varies from 6% to 15%, year-to-year.
* Students accepted into the program have SAT scores averaging around 700 for math and in the upper 700 range for verbal.
* Essay and interviews are paramount in the admissions process.
* Once an all male college, females are now able to enroll (class of 2013).
Macaulay Honors College at City University of New York (CUNY)
Established in 2001, Macaulay Honors College, located in New York City, is a liberal arts college combining traditional and experiential teaching and learning. The school has tripled its enrollment since its beginning to about 1400 students.
Students have the option to enroll in one of eight CUNY colleges through the Advising Program and each student creates an individualized academic program which includes courses selected from more than 210 majors.
Additional Macaulay Honors College highlights include:
* Students have a combined SAT critical reading and math score of about 1400 and an A average in high school.
* Students can also attend a wide range of semester and year-long study-abroad programs at universities around the world.
* All students are required to complete 10 hours of community service in each of their first three years.
All students at Macaulay Honors College receive a full, undergraduate, free-tuition scholarship (not including fees). They also receive a $7,500 Opportunities Fund grant for global research and study service/learning opportunities, a MacBook Pro laptop computer and a Cultural Passport to New York City arts and cultural events. Housing support is also available. Students are required to meet CUNY residency requirements for in-state tuition in order to receive the full-tuition scholarship.
Web Institute, established in 1889, is located in Glen Cove, New York. The Institute, known for its engineering education, offers only a single undergraduate degree option in naval architecture and marine engineering and is the only school in the nation devoted to ship-design engineering and systems engineering.
Additional Web Institute highlights include:
* The institute houses a 90-foot long model ship basin, frequently used by students and faculty for experiments and research.
* Students work in the maritime industry during a winter work term and receive a salary.
* The Webb Institute only enrolls around 90 students and has a student/faculty ratio of 7:1.
* Webb Institute has a 37% acceptance rate and an 87.2% average freshman retention rate.
* Graduates have a 100% job placement.
This tuition free school provides every student receives a four-year, full-tuition scholarship. Costs are limited to room and board, books and software. Room and board is estimated to be $13,750 and students can participate in internships to earn money.
Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades
Founded in 1888, Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades is a three-year, men’s only junior trade school located in Media, Pennsylvania. Most students come from the Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania regions.
The school has a living environment based on the Judeo-Christian perspective which fosters the values of faith, integrity, diligence, excellence, and service.
The school offers programs to students in carpentry, masonry, horticulture, landscaping, turf management, machine tools, painting, and power plant technology. Upon graduation, students receive an associate’s degree unless they decide to obtain a lower diploma in carpentry or masonry.
Additional Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades highlights include:
* Students must be unmarried and no more than 20 years of age to enroll in the program.
* Approximately 100 students are offered admission to Williamson each year.
* All students are required to live on-campus in a supervised dorm, attend a chapel service and follow a dress code.
Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades is the only trade college in the United States which gives all students full scholarships to cover textbooks, tuition and room and board.
Best Colleges Providing Free Tuition Based on Family Income
Established in 1865, Cornell University is a private research university located in Ithaca, New York. As a private university and a land-grant institution of New York State, Cornell University is the most educationally diverse member of the Ivy League.
The university has seven undergraduate and seven graduate divisions at its main Ithaca campus. The school’s research covers a wide array of subjects.
The university has over 29,000 students from all 50 states and 122 countries.
Additional Cornell University highlights include:
* Cornell ranked #15 in the U.S. News & World Report 2013 edition of the Best Colleges in National Universities.
* A member of the Association of American Universities.
* 9:1 student/faculty ratio.
* Cornell has an 18% acceptance rate and a 97% freshman retention rate.
Parents with a combined income of less than $60,000 and assets totaling less than $100,000 pay nothing for their child’s education. Students contribute money from a summer job and a small amount of money from savings. The total estimated cost of attending Cornell University for one year is $59k which includes tuition, student activity fees, housing, dining, books and supplies, personal expenses, and travel expenses.
The university doesn’t have a minimum or maximum amount of grant awarded. Income, family size, and assets, as well as the number of children in college, are all factors for calculating the amount a family is required to contribute and Cornell University doesn’t have a standard “income bracket” or ceiling for grant-aid recipients; rather, eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Duke University, founded in 1838, a private, global research university located in Durham, North Carolina, has about 6,000 graduate and professional students, spread out among 10 schools and colleges.
Graduate programs include the highly ranked Pratt School of Engineering, Fuqua School of Business, School of Medicine, School of Law, School of Nursing, and the Sanford School of Public Policy.
Additional Duke University highlights include:
* Duke University ranked #8 in the U.S. News & World Report 2013 edition of the Best Colleges in National Universities, and Forbes ranked the school #24.
* The Duke University Library system is one of the ten largest private research university library systems in the nation.
* The university has a 7:1 student/faculty ratio.
* the Academic Ranking of World Universities has the university ranked #27 in the nation and #35 in the world
* In a study by the New York Times, Duke graduates were among the most valued in the world by employers
Duke accepts about 16% of the applicants and has a 97% first-year student retention rate.
Families with a determined income less than $60k don’t have to make a contribution to their child’s education. The estimated total cost of attending Duke University for one year is $59k which includes tuition, fees, room and board, books, and personal expenses.
The average approximate aid awarded to the class of 2014 for families with different annual income levels:
• $60–79.9K: $48,000
• $80–100K: $41,000
• $100–120K: $40,000
• $120K+: $19,000
First-year students are required to earn $2,100, sophomores, $2,400, juniors, $2,500, and seniors, $2,600. The Expected Family Contribution student portion is based on student’s work during the summer to invest in their education.
Established in 1636, Harvard University, a private, Ivy League research university is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The university’s tradition and wealth make it one of the world’s most prestigious universities in the world. Separated into 11 academic units, ten faculties and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, Harvard has about 20,000 students and a 7:1 student/faculty ratio.
Additional Harvard University highlights include:
* Harvard University ranked #1 in the 2013 edition of the Best Colleges in National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, and Forbes ranked Harvard University #6.
* The school ranked #3 in 2012 in the QS World University Rankings.
* SAT test scores (25th/75th percentile) are as follows: Critical reading: 690/790; math: 700/800; and writing: 690/790.
* Harvard offers 46 undergraduate concentrations, 134 graduate degrees and 32 professional degrees.
* Harvard has a 6% acceptance rate and a 97% first-year, full-time student retention rate.
According to the Financial Aid initiative Parents with an income below $60k don’t have to contribute to college costs and home equity and retirement accounts are not included when determining family contribution.
Financial aid packages do not include loans and people with higher incomes dealing with unusual financial challenges may also qualify for need-based scholarship assistance. Entrance into to Harvard University is need-blind; however, financial aid at Harvard University is entirely need-based.
Harvard’s tuition and fees amount to around $40k; room and board averages at $13k. Students are expected to contribute to cover the cost of their education through term-time and summer work. Starting with the Class of 2016, families with incomes between $65k and $150k will contribute from 0% to 10% of income, and those with incomes above $150k will be asked to pay more than 10%.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Founded in 1861, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a private, research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has approximately 10,900 students, five schools and one college.
The school has a strong emphasis on scientific, technological, and engineering education. The school is part of the Association of American Universities. The school has a focus on teaching and research.
Additional Massachusetts Institute of Technology highlights include:
* MIT has an 8:1 student/faculty ratio.
* In the U.S. News & World Report 2013 edition, MIT ranked #6 in the Best Colleges in National Universities list and #1 in 2012 by QS World University Rankings.
* MIT has an acceptance rate of 9.7% and an average freshman retention rate of 97.5%.
The total price for MIT, including tuition and fees, housing and dining and expenses is in excess of $59k a year; housing and dining is around 12k.
MIT provides free tuition with scholarships and grants for students from families with earnings of $75,000 or less. MIT expects each student receiving aid to pay for a portion of their need through a loan, part-time job, or both and 87% of financial aid among MIT undergraduates came in the form of scholarship or grant. The median debt upon graduation is $15k, however, the average annual starting salaries for graduates is well in excess of $60k.
Established in 1746, Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey is the fourth-oldest college in the United States. Princeton, an independent, nondenominational institution, provides undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering.
Additional Princeton University highlights include:
* From 2001 to 2014, Princeton University ranked either first or second among national universities by U.S. News and World Report.
* In the 2012 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Princeton ranked 6th in the world.
* Princeton University accepts credit from more than 100 programs and universities in 39 countries.
In 2001, Princeton became the first university to offer every aid recipient a financial aid package to replaces loans with grant aid (scholarships) students do not need to repay. The average financial aid grant covers 100 percent of the tuition.
In order to receive this aid, students need to submit their family’s information on the application, the university considers many financial factors. Princeton University does not use income cutoffs when determining whether to award financial aid. Approximately 60% of students receive need-based aid, with an average grant approaching $40,000.
Established in 1891, Stanford University, a private research university located in Stanford, California, has over 15,000 students and offers undergraduate and graduate degree program in seven schools and in a variety of subjects including humanities and science, business, medicine, education and engineering. Stanford University is a founding member of the Association of American Universities.
Additional Stanford University highlights include:
* Stanford University provides the Bing Overseas Studies Program
* Stanford University ranked #2 best research university by THES, and #2 in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
* Stanford ranked #1 in the world in both humanities and social sciences by The Times of Higher Education World Rankings in 2011.
* In 2012, the University ranked #15 by QS World University Rankings, and listed as #6 in the 2013 edition of the Best Colleges in National Universities by U.S. News & World Report.
* Stanford University has a 7% admission rate and a 98% first-year student retention rate.
Over 70% of Stanford undergraduates receive financial aid. Parents with an income below $60,000 and typical assets for this income range don’t have to pay anything towards tuition. In addition, for parents with an income below $100,000 and typical assets for this income range, the expected parent contribution is low enough to make sure all tuition charges receive coverage with need-based scholarships, state and federal grants, and/or outside scholarship funds.
Families with incomes at higher levels, usually up to $200,000, may also qualify for help, especially if more than one family member attends college. The tuition and fees average around $41k, while room and board is $12k.
The university expects students receiving a financial aid package to contribute to paying for the cost of their education. Most students contribute at least $5,000 from prior earnings, especially summer earnings, and $2,800 from part-time employment during the academic year. Students are also expected to contribute 5% per year of their savings and investments, if they have any. However, students can reduce or eliminate their expected contribution from student earnings through attaining outside scholarships.
Texas A&M University
Founded in 1876, Texas A&M University, a public, research university located in College Station, Texas, is the flagship institution of the Texas A&M University System.
Texas A&M University, among the nation’s largest universities, has a student body well over 50,000 and a campus of more than 5,200 acres. The university has 10 academic colleges and offers over 120 undergraduate, 240 graduate degree programs and 800 student organizations.
Texas A&M is involved in many well known research projects funded by agencies and the university has formal research and exchange agreements with 100 institutions in 40 countries.
Additional Texas A&M University highlights include:
* Texas A&M consistently ranks among the top 10 public universities every year in enrollment of National Merit Scholars.
* 21:1 student/faculty ratio.
* The university offers highly ranked graduate offerings through its Mays Business School, Dwight Look College of Engineering and College of Education and Human Development.
* Texas A&M University ranked #23 among the top public schools by U.S. News & World Report.
* Texas A&M is one of six United States Senior Military Colleges.
* The university accepts sixty-two percent of applicant.
The total cost for in-state students is around $20k per year and approximately 71% of students received some form of financial assistance.
The Aggie Assurance program helps students with a family income of less than $60k, the program does not include fees. All eligible students receive scholarships and grants to cover the cost of tuition and many students eligible for free tuition also receive other scholarships and grants to help cover the cost of required fees, housing, books and other expenses.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Established in 1789, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), a public research university located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has more than 29,000 students. The university provides over 70 bachelor’s degrees, over 100 master’s degrees, and 74 doctoral degree programs. All undergraduates receive a liberal arts education.
Additional University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill highlights include:
* In the U.S. News & World Report 2013 edition of the Best Colleges in National Universities, UNC ranked #30 and #5 in the top public school list.
* Many of the university’s professional schools have received high rankings in publications such as U.S. News & World Report and Forbes magazine.
* The University of North Carolina provides 300 study abroad programs in 70 countries and has one of the highest percentage of undergraduates studying abroad of any public institution.
* UNC has a 31% acceptance rate.
UNC is one of the eight original Public Ivy schools which provide an Ivy League experience for a public education price. The Carolina Covenant promises children from low-income families eligible for the program can graduate with a bachelor’s degree with no debt and if they work in a federal Work-Study program, they can graduate debt free.
Eligibility for the Carolina Covenant requires students to enroll as a full-time undergraduate student, be dependent on a parent whose income is no more than 200% of federal poverty guidelines and not have other resources to pay for college. They must also meet citizen requirements and meet eligibility standards for federal financial aid programs.
Founded in 1873, Vanderbilt University a private, research university, located in Nashville, Tennessee has about 12,000 students from all 50 states and from more than 90 foreign countries. Vanderbilt University, a member of the Association of American Universities, provides 70 undergraduate majors. The university’s study abroad program includes opportunities in over 25 countries.
Vanderbilt University has several graduate and professional schools including: the Divinity School, Law School, Graduate School, School of Nursing, School of Medicine, and the Owen Graduate School of Management.
Additional Vanderbilt University highlights include:
* Vanderbilt University ranked #17 in the U.S. News & World Report 2013 edition of the Best Colleges in National Universities and Forbes ranked the university #33.
* News & World Report ranked Vanderbilt’s Graduate Schools of Education – Peabody College and the Audiology (Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences) #1 in the nation.
* Vanderbilt has an 8:1 student/faculty ratio.
* The university accepts about 16% of applicants.
During the 2012 academic year, over 60% of undergraduate students received some type of financial assistance. Vanderbilt University meets 100% of a family’s demonstrated financial need. Financial aid awards do not include loans; instead of offering loans to undergraduate students, Vanderbilt offers additional grant assistance.
Tuition and fees per year cost an estimated $42k and the estimated total cost of attending Vanderbilt University is $60k per academic year, which includes tuition, fees, room and board, and books.
The median award for families in the income range of $0 to $40,000 is $59k and the awards range from $31k to $63k. The average financial aid package for first-year students entering the university in 2012, who received need-based assistance (including Vanderbilt funds) consisted of 97% gift aid and 3% work.
Established in 1701, Yale University a private, Ivy League research university located in New Haven, Connecticut, has a 6:1 student to faculty ratio.
Yale has the top-ranked law school in the country, as well as highly ranked schools of medicine, management, nursing, and art.
The school has about 5,300 undergraduate and 6,100 graduate and professional students, with over 450 active on-campus organizations.
Additional Yale University highlights include:
* In 2013, Yale University ranked #3 in the U.S. News & World Report 2013 edition of the Best Colleges in national universities.
* Yale was also ranked #7 in the 2012 QS World University Rankings and #10 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
* Yale University has a 7.7% acceptance rate and a 98% first-year student retention rate.
The school’s tuition averages $58,600 per year, which includes tuition, room and board, books, and personal expenses. Yale University meets 100% of demonstrated financial need and if a family earns a total gross income of 65k or less, they are not expected to pay for their child’s tuition. The expected annual parent contribution is $10,000; however, more than 10% of Yale University undergraduate families are expected to pay nothing for the education.