7 Tuition-Free Colleges & Universities

Updated on July 23, 2020
melbel profile image

Melanie has a BS in physical science and is in grad school for analytics and modeling. Her research is in computational chemistry.

Tuition-free college and universities
Tuition-free college and universities

Going to college in the US is expensive and in economic times like these, and few students know they can go to college for free.

Some students looking for free college end up in the military where the US government offers generous grants that pay tuition. Students unable to join the military, there is always 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 regarding giving out free education!

Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia
Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia | Source

Berea College

While not offering a completely free college education, Berea College (located in Berea, Kentucky) is offering students a large chunk of money off their tuition. How? They've received a very, very large endowment.

Each student admitted to Berea will receive a $90,000 scholarship (and I thought my $2000 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.

The Draper Building at Berea College
The Draper Building at Berea College | Source

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.

A cattle drive at Deep Springs College
A cattle drive at Deep Springs College | Source

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. Alice Lloyd also offers some competitive sports including basketball, softball, cross country, cheerleading, and baseball.

Cooper Union in New York city
Cooper Union in New York city | Source
The main atrium at Cooper Union
The main atrium at Cooper Union | Source

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 nineteenth-century mansions of Philadelphia.

Aerial view of the College of the Ozarks
Aerial view of the College of the Ozarks | Source

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.

The wide open spaces of  Deep Springs College
The wide open spaces of Deep Springs College | Source

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.

The creator of the I Love New York logo graduated from Cooper Union
The creator of the I Love New York logo graduated from Cooper Union | Source

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 New York" logo, Milton Glaser graduated from Cooper Union! The programs at here are rigorous, but the professors are dedicated to their students' education.

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.

Originally published 2009

© 2009 Melanie


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    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      18 months ago from U.S.A.

      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,



    • melbel profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Midwest, USA

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

    • Rebeccasutton profile image

      Rebecca Sutton 

      6 years ago from Rock Hill, SC

      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!

    • profile image

      penelope clearwater 

      8 years ago

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

    • Lalulinho profile image


      9 years ago

      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 profile image


      9 years ago

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

    • sunchild28 profile image


      9 years ago from Nigeria

      Nice hub,thanks for sharing.

    • melbel profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Midwest, USA

      Brittany, let us all know if you get in!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      applied to CofO yesterday wooo!

    • profile image

      Adams jonathan 

      9 years ago

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

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Wow this is really helpful


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