19 Tuition-Free Colleges + How to Save Money on Tuition

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College is one of the most expensive investments you’ll make in your life. At least, it is if you end up paying full or almost-full sticker price. Fortunately, many students receive substantial financial aid to help them fund their education.

 

If your family falls in the low-income bracket, in some cases, you may not even have to pay for tuition at all. Which colleges are tuition-free for certain students? How do you know if you qualify? Keep reading to find out.

 

What Do We Mean by Tuition-Free?

 

Tuition-free isn’t the same as a full ride. The former describes programs in which tuition itself — meaning courses — is covered, but you may still need to pay for room, board, and other fees. A full ride means these other costs are covered, so you won’t have to pay for any of the basic essentials when you go to college.

 

Tuition-Free Colleges for Low-Income Students

 

1. Brown University

 

Location: Providence, RI

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,000

 

Brown guarantees a full ride to students coming from families that make under $60,000 per year. The Ivy League is also need-blind and meets 100% of demonstrated need with no loans.

 

Learn more about Brown and what it takes to get accepted.

 

2. Colby College

 

Location: Waterville, ME

Acceptance Rate: 13%

Undergrad Enrollment: 2,000

 

This small liberal arts college offers a full ride to students from families making under $65,000 per year. Additionally, if your family makes under $150,000 per year, you’ll pay no more than $15,000.

 

Learn more about Colby and what it takes to get accepted.

 

3. Cornell University

 

Location: Ithaca, NY

Acceptance Rate: 11%

Undergrad Enrollment: 15,100

 

Like its fellow Ivy, Cornell offers a full ride to students whose families earn under $60,000 per year. The university also meets 100% of demonstrated need and has a no-loan financial aid policy.

 

Learn more about Cornell and what it takes to get accepted.

 

4. Duke University

 

Location: Durham, NC

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,600

 

Duke grants a full ride to students with families making under $60,000 per year.

 

Learn more about Duke and what it takes to get accepted.

 

5. Harvard University

 

Location: Cambridge, MA

Acceptance Rate: 4.5%

Undergrad Enrollment: 9,900

 

For students from families earning less than $65,000 per year, Harvard has a full-ride policy. Meanwhile, families with incomes between $65,000 and $150,000 will contribute 0-10% of their income toward their education.

 

Learn more about Harvard and what it takes to get accepted.

 

6. Princeton University

 

Location: Princeton, NJ

Acceptance Rate: 4.5%

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,400

 

Princeton guarantees a full ride to students with families making under $54,000 per year. They also offer free tuition for students whose families make under $120,000 per year.

 

Learn more about Princeton and what it takes to get accepted.

 

7. Stanford University

 

Location: Stanford, CA

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,000

 

This “Ivy of the West” gives a full ride to students with families that earn under $65,000 per year. Plus, it offers free tuition to students with families making under $125,000 per year.

 

Learn more about Stanford and what it takes to get accepted.

 

8. University of Chicago

 

Location: Chicago, IL

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Undergrad Enrollment: 6,600

 

For students coming from families earning under $60,000 per year, UChicago offers a full ride, along with free tuition for students with families making under $125,000 per year.

 

Learn more about UChicago and what it takes to get accepted.

 

9. Yale University

 

Location: New Haven, CT

Acceptance Rate: 4.5%

Undergrad Enrollment: 5,900

 

Yale guarantees a full ride to students with families making under $65,000 per year. Like many of its peers, it meets 100% of demonstrated need and has a no-loan policy.

 

Learn more about Yale and what it takes to get accepted.

 

Find out more about schools that cover tuition and meet 100% of demonstrated financial need — often without loans.

 

Tuition-Free Military Academies

 

The enormously selective and prestigious U.S. military academies all provide a free ride to cadets, covering tuition, room and board, supplies, fees, medical and dental care, and more. Cadets also receive stipends. After graduating, students are required to serve at least five years active duty.

 

10. Air Force Academy

 

Location: USAF Academy, CO

Acceptance Rate: 11%

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,300

 

Learn more about AFA and what it takes to get accepted.

 

11. Coast Guard Academy

 

Location: New London, CT

Acceptance Rate: 19%

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,000

 

Learn more about USCGA and what it takes to get accepted.

 

12. Merchant Marine Academy

 

Location: Kings Point, NY

Acceptance Rate: 22%

Undergrad Enrollment: 900

 

Learn more about USMMA and what it takes to get accepted.

 

13. Military Academy (West Point)

 

Location: West Point, NY

Acceptance Rate: 10%

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,500

 

Learn more about West Point and what it takes to get accepted.

 

14. Naval Academy

 

Location: Annapolis, MD

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Undergrad Enrollment: 4,500

 

Learn more about USNA and what it takes to get accepted.

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

Tuition-Free Work Colleges

 

The Work Colleges Consortium includes four-year liberal arts colleges aimed at engaging students in work and learning while reducing the cost of higher education. Throughout their four years at school, resident students participate in a work-learning service program, working at on- or off-campus jobs. The colleges employ a student-centered approach and seek to enhance their students’ educational experience. 

 

15. Alice Lloyd College

 

Location: Pippa Passes, KY

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Undergrad Enrollment: 600

 

Learn more about Alice Lloyd and what it takes to get accepted.

 

16. Berea College

 

Location: Berea, KY

Acceptance Rate: 30%

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,600

 

Learn more about Berea and what it takes to get accepted.

 

17. Bethany Global University

 

Location: Bloomington, MN

Acceptance Rate: 87%

Undergrad Enrollment: 300

 

Learn more about Bethany Global and what it takes to get accepted.

 

18. College of the Ozarks

 

Location: Point Lookout, MO

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Undergrad Enrollment: 1,500

 

Learn more about CofO and what it takes to get accepted.

 

19. Warren Wilson College

 

Location: Swannanoa, NC

Acceptance Rate: 85%

Undergrad Enrollment: 600

 

Learn more about Warren Wilson and what it takes to get accepted.

 

Tips for Saving Money on Tuition

 

Most of these colleges offer full tuition or full rides to students below certain economic thresholds. But there are other ways to save money on your education.

 

1. Apply for Scholarships

 

Scholarships are one of the best ways to save money on your tuition and other expenses. Some colleges, such as Duke, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Notre Dame, offer full-ride scholarships. Some are based entirely on merit — meaning your academic and extracurricular achievements — while others take need into account, too.

 

Outside scholarships are another important resource you shouldn’t overlook. The more you apply for, the better your chances of winning. Look for niche scholarships catering to a specific interest, intended major, career, or demographic, because the pool of candidates will be smaller, increasing your likelihood of winning — such as those for business majors, engineering majors, Hispanic and Latino/Latinx students, or students with disabilities.

 

And don’t forget about CollegeVine’s scholarships. We offer awards of up to $500 every week, and all you need to do to enter is sign up for a free account.

 

2. Ace Your Standardized Tests

 

Some schools award automatic scholarships for high SAT and ACT scores — even full tuition or full ride. (Often, you need to have a minimum GPA to earn these scholarships.)

 

Examples of colleges that offer substantial awards solely based on your academic credentials are Alabama State University, Baylor University, Howard University, and Texas Tech University. 

 

3. Leverage Tuition-Reimbursement Programs

 

Some employees, including Starbucks, Amazon, Best Buy, Bank of America, Chipotle, Verizon, and many other companies, both local and national, offer generous tuition-reimbursement programs for employees. That means, as part of their benefits packages, they help employees pay for college tuition. Usually, there are stipulations about which programs or types of degrees employees pursue. 

 

No matter what, few students end up paying full sticker price for college. How much will you actually need to pay? CollegeVine’s financial aid calculator will estimate your personal cost of attendance. Plus, use our free chancing engine to find out your real chances of getting in.

 

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Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.

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