Skip to main content

7 Tuition-Free Colleges and Universities

Melanie has a BS in physical science and is in grad school for analytics and modeling. She also runs a YouTube channel: The Curious Coder.

Tuition-free college and universities

Tuition-free college and universities

Going to college in the United States is expensive. But did you there are certain colleges that don't charge a dime for tuition?

Some students looking for free college end up in the military where the U.S. government offers generous grants that pay tuition. However, for students who are unable or unwilling to join the military, there is another option.

There are several colleges that offer entirely free tuition. If you're looking for a great learning experience without having to pay an arm and a leg for school, then this might be your ticket!

Some of these colleges offer tuition-free programs as a new idea they're testing and some are just hidden gems.

Each college on this list has a method of offering free tuition, so definitely check out what makes each of them special.

The Draper Building at Berea College

The Draper Building at Berea College

1. Berea College

Though they do not offer a completely free college education, Berea College (located in Berea, Kentucky) offers students a large chunk of money off their tuition. How? They've received a very, very large endowment.

Each student admitted to Berea receives a $90,000 scholarship (and I thought my $2,000 scholarship was great!). Room, board, and books aren't free of cost, and students are required to work on campus at least 10 hours a week.

2. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

For engineering majors, the deal cannot get any sweeter than four years of free tuition at one of the top engineering undergraduate schools in the country. As all the students attend the college on grant money from the F.W. Olin Foundation, an emphasis is placed on philanthropy as well as helping communities.

A huge benefit of this school is that the student-to-faculty ratio is 9:1, which gives students an individualized learning experience. Olin College of Engineering, located in Needham, Massachusetts, receives a massive amount of applications each year. With space for only about 340 students, enrollment can be quite competitive.

3. Alice Lloyd College

Located in the fun-to-say town of Pippa Passes, Kentucky, Alice Lloyd College requires students to work at least 10 hours a week in exchange for free tuition. For those students who would also like free room and board, there is the option to work 15 hours a week.

Students are allowed to let their personal preferences and work experience rein when choosing an on-campus job. Alice Lloyd College is a private co-educational, Christian tuition-free college that was founded to allow the Appalachian people to further their education.

There are many degree programs at this four-year school. If you're interested in a teaching degree or a degree in biology, business, English, history, physical science, social science, and sports & fitness management, you might want to consider Alice Lloyd College as an option. This school also offers some competitive sports including basketball, softball, cross country, cheerleading, and baseball.

Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia

Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia

4. Curtis Institute of Music

In competition with Juilliard, this performing arts school has a highly selective entrance as they have an enrollment of only about 165 students. However, for those who do make it into the school, there are no worries about tuition as it is free of cost.

Students here put on over 100 concerts a year and receive one-on-one training. Because of this, students have a busy schedule, but this goes hand in hand with the "learning by doing" concept.

While students have a rigorous schedule, Curtis has produced a large number of notable artists. Applicants to Curtis Institute of Music are accepted purely by their artistic talent and not by their pocketbook which is the primary reason that this school offers free tuition to its students. This tuition-free college is located is located on Rittenhouse Square surrounded by the beautiful architecture of the 19th-century mansions of Philadelphia.

5. Cooper Union

Offering degrees in engineering, the arts, architecture, and humanities & social sciences this college offers four years of college at no cost to students. This doesn't make the decision to attend Cooper Union easy, however, as they receive an enormous number of applications each year.

Students here can enjoy their time off campus exploring NYC and sharing the love by wearing an "I Love New York" shirt—after all, the designer of the "I Love NY" logo, Milton Glaser graduated from Cooper Union! The programs at here are rigorous, but the professors are dedicated to their students' education.

Aerial view of the College of the Ozarks

Aerial view of the College of the Ozarks

6. College of the Ozarks

Located in Point Lookout, Missouri, College of the Ozarks degrees are tuition-free. Instead of paying for classes, students here work on campus at least 15 hours a week as well as two 40-hour work weeks. As well as being graded on their academics, students are graded on their work.

College of the Ozarks funds their programs with generous donations from their alumni and other supporters. While tuition is free for students, the college also accepts federal student aid which helps keep their costs down, thus enabling more students to attend. The college initially started out by offering only two-year degrees, but now offers bachelor's degrees.

A cattle drive at Deep Springs College

A cattle drive at Deep Springs College

The wide open spaces of  Deep Springs College

The wide open spaces of Deep Springs College

7. Deep Springs College

This all-male, two-year college is located on an alfalfa farm/cattle ranch. Only about 15 students are admitted per year, but the college offers free tuition as well as free room and board. The catch? Students are required to work 20 hours a week on the ranch!

Since the college is located in the middle of nowhere, smoking is prohibited due to the lack of emergency services. In addition to this, leaving the campus during the semester is prohibited (except in extreme circumstances), so this isn't considered a party school.

Is Free College for You?

The idea of tuition-free colleges is a relatively new one, but it is growing. There are many colleges each year opening their doors to students free of charge. When the subject of financing college comes up, it's a good idea to consider a free college as this can lift the load of unnecessary student loan debt.

© 2009 Melanie Palen


Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on February 08, 2019:

Hi, Mel,

Loved this article. This is an area we as a nation really need to explore even further. These schools represent a leap in understanding that if you want to have a populace that understands how to run a democracy, then people must be educated.

No, everybody doesn't want or need a liberal arts education, but without adequate apprenticeships, trades and other skilled professions suffer. Likewise, we need the creative minds to be able to make art for our culture in order to continue to flourish.

Your article provides good guidance for those with limited financial resources to consider furthering their knowledge at schools that want to assist in that goal.

Great read.

Informative, educational, and provides a glimpse of hope for our nation,



Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on July 28, 2014:

Awesome! I'm thrilled that you're finding this guide to be helpful. I wish you the best of luck!

Rebecca Sutton from Rock Hill, SC on July 27, 2014:

Love it. I am always trying to keep up with low cost college options. No cost is better! I had no idea these school did this. Bookmarking and looking into attendance asap!

penelope clearwater on October 28, 2011:

Olin isn't free anymore, they ran out of money. COOPER UNION FTW!!!

Lalulinho on May 18, 2011:

Dear Melbel, thanks for this. Now that I have a second child on the way, I am hoping that they are interested in one of these schools. UC Irvine law school is also a great catch--not well known to people who aren't lawyers.

Tankadin on April 29, 2011:

Excellent information and very well written. You did a really good job with this.

sunchild28 from Nigeria on April 22, 2011:

Nice hub,thanks for sharing.

Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on January 24, 2011:

Brittany, let us all know if you get in!

Brittany on August 31, 2010:

applied to CofO yesterday wooo!

Adams jonathan on August 30, 2010:

Wow how i love to see myself in school like this.

Priya on July 12, 2010:

Wow this is really helpful