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Go to College for $0 – 13 Free Tuition Options

Kathryn Knight Randolph

December 10, 2010

Go to College for $0 – 13 Free Tuition Options
Throughout the past decade, the average cost of tuition has been steadily increasing at 5.6% each year, according to College Board. College costs continue to outpace inflation rates, causing families to make tough calls when searching and choosing the best education experience. Sometimes it results in students having to sacrifice their first choice. Other times, the decision is even more difficult, requiring students to wait a few years before continuing their education. While this is a grim picture, there are instances of a silver lining. Take, for example, the 15 or so colleges in the country that offer free tuition. That’s right – students pay $0 for the education they deserve.

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Most of these schools are able to offer free tuition because of the large endowment on hand. Others, get a little creative, requiring students to work 15 hours a week to sustain campus operations. Cooper Union—New York, New York Peter Cooper, the founder of Cooper Union, once said that education should be “as free as water and air.” According to his biography on the Cooper Union website, Cooper lacked the opportunity to learn – everything from spelling to scientific techniques. Yet, he went on to become one of the richest industrialists in the country. He designed and built the first steam engine, helped lay the first Atlantic cable for telegraphs, ran for President and invented gelatin, better known now as Jello. Not too shabby for a guy who couldn’t spell.

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The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science, founded in 1859, is the embodiment of Cooper’s contribution to science and education. That’s why it’s committed to offering an education free of charge to students. Some quick facts about Cooper Union (taken from the most recent data in 2008)…
Costs students have to cover per year:

  • Student fees: $1,650
  • Room and board: $1,400
  • Books and supplies: $1,000 to 1,800
  • General living expenses: $2,000 – 3,000

*Tuition costs $35,000 per year – but all students receive full-tuition scholarships. College of the Ozarks—Hollister, MO The College of the Ozarks actually began as The School of Ozarks, founded by missionary, Reverend James Forsythe. He came to the Ozarks and saw a great need for an educational institution in the area and thus, established the School of the Ozarks. Over the years, the school evolved from a high school to a junior college to the four-year school it is today. Rather than requiring students to pay for tuition, The College of the Ozarks asks students to work for it. Students at the school are required to work at least 15 hours a week, along with two 40-hour weeks when classes aren’t in session, contributing to the sustainability and functionality of campus operations. Some quick facts about The College of the Ozarks…
  • About 3,000 students apply each year
  • Approximately 300 – 350 students are admitted each year

Costs students have to cover per year:

  • Student fees: $420
  • Room and board: $5,300
  • Books and equipment: $800

*Tuition costs $16,900 a year – but all students receive scholarships and grants, regardless of need. Berea College – Berea, KY In a time when the country was warring over slavery, an anti-slavery school was founded in the South. The Reverend John G. Fee began what he hoped would be an educational institution for students, both black and white. Enrollment in 1886-87 consisted of 96 black students and 91 white students. Berea College has continued the tradition of providing an education to anyone and everyone with its $0 tuition plan, especially reaching out to the Appalachian region in recent years. Much like the College of the Ozarks, students have to work for their education. Some quick facts about Berea College…
  • 1,496 undergraduates attend – 23% of which are minorities
  • 60% of the incoming class come from families where neither parent has a college degree
  • Students come from 44 different states and 58 countries, besides the U.S.

Costs students have to cover per year:

  • Student fees: $876
  • Room and board: $5,768
  • Books and equipment: $2,552

*Full cost of tuition per student is $25,000 but that amount is offset by scholarships, grants and the college’s endowment.

Looking for an easier way to search for scholarships? Register now on Fastweb. Deep Springs College – Big Pine, CA Deep Springs College is different from most schools for a variety of reasons. First, it’s only one of ten all-male institutions left in the U.S. Second, the liberal arts college only hosts students for two years – after which, they transfer to four-year colleges and universities like Harvard, University of Chicago and Yale. Third, the school itself is a ranch, where students are responsible for cattle herding, gardening and acres and acres of alfalfa fields. Officially founded in 1917, Deep Springs College began in Telluride as an educational project of a gold-mining, newspaper-running, bank-operating entrepreneur, Lucien Lucius Nunn. His goal was simple: he wanted educated workers in his plants so he created an education system for them. After seven years of success, Nunn was forced out of his managerial position because he was more obsessed with education than work, and the school in Telluride was closed. This prompted him to start a school in Deep Springs Valley.
Some quick facts about Deep Springs College…
  • Roughly 100 students apply to Deep Springs each year
  • Only 11 – 15 are admitted

Costs students have to cover per year:

  • Books, travel and incidentals: $2,800

*The cost of full tuition is $50,000, including room and board, and covered entirely by the school. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering – Needham, MA While most of the $0 tuition schools have a deep-rooted history, the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering was only recently opened in 2002. The school infuses engineering instruction with other subjects like business and entrepreneurship, arts, and humanities and sciences. Founder, Franklin W. Olin, was able to earn admission to Cornell University through self-instruction. He later went on to establish the Olin Foundation, a Fortune 1000 Company. His success enabled him to establish the F.W. Olin Foundation, which contributed to building projects on multiple college campuses across the county as well as to the start of his school. Some quick facts about Olin College of Engineering…
  • Approximately 85 students will be chosen for the Class of 2015
  • 567 students applied to be in the class of 2014 – 171 were admitted and 92 enrolled
  • Students come from 23 different states and five different countries

Costs students have to cover per year:

  • Room: $8,500
  • Meal plan: $5,000
  • Health insurance: $1,018
  • Laptop purchase: $2,500 (billed in two installments)
  • Student activity fee: $175
  • General fee: $250
  • Books and supplies: $750 (estimated)
  • Travel and incidentals: $1,500 (estimated)

*CORRECTION: While the Franklin W. Olin School of Engineering is maintaining their full-tuition scholarship promise to current students, it will not be able to continue with the Class of 2015. Due to the ongoing economic struggle, the school has been forced to offer the Class of 2015 half-tuition scholarships, making the total cost of one year at Olin $38,693 (includes books, laptops, fees, etc.). Saint Louis Christian College – Florissant, MO Saint Louis Christian College seeks to educate students while building on Christian values. The school offers full-ride scholarships to students attending class full-time as well as living on campus full-time. The college was started by three pastors in the St. Louis area in 1956. It began as a small school with 11 faculty members and 19 students. Since then, it has grown to an 11.5-acre campus with over 300 students. Some quick facts about Saint Louis Christian College…
  • Total enrollment is 319 students, according to
  • In 2009, 78 students applied and 42 were admitted

Costs students have to cover per year:

  • Student fees: $1,300
  • Room and meal plan: $8,200

*Full tuition scholarships are available to full-time students living on campus only. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY – New York, NY Officially named William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the school provides a unique opportunity for exceptionally gifted students. Macaulay not only places a strong emphasis on the art, history and people of New York City but also in global learning, internship opportunities and technology. Students at Macaulay must enroll at one of the seven CUNY campuses in the NYC area, but Macaulay assists students in tailoring a specific academic program, creating a unique education experience for each student. Chancellor Matthew Goldstein founded the Honors College, as it was originally named, in 2001. A generous donation from William and Linda Macaulay allowed the Honors College to purchase a landmark building in 2006. From that point forward, the school was named the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY. Some quick facts about Macaulay Honors College
  • Must be a first-time student to apply – they do not accept transfers
  • Students can tailor their academic experience from over 200 majors in the CUNY curriculum
  • 90% of Macaulay students study abroad
  • For the Class of 2014, there were 4,072 applicants – 877 were accepted – 394 enrolled

Costs students have to cover per year:

  • Responsible for student fees
  • Some students may need to pay for housing but most receive support for room and board costs

*Students are awarded full-tuition scholarships upon enrollment. They also receive a laptop, $7,500 for study abroad opportunities and a cultural passport of NYC that allows entrance into art and cultural venues. Curtis Institute of Music – Philadelphia, PA Curtis Institute of Music is the perfect school for any aspiring musician. It combines musical training with liberal arts courses, creating well-rounded musicians. Admission is based solely on “artistic promise.” Mary Louise Curtis Bok, daughter of the Philadelphia publisher of The Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies’ Home Journal, started the music school as a project for culturally and financially impoverished children. Many of these first students went on to have professional careers in music. The school has continued the tradition and is now one of the most exclusive music institutions in the whole world. Some quick facts about Curtis Institute of Music...
  • Admission offers are based on the school’s current need for symphony orchestra, opera department, and select programs in piano, composition, organ, guitar and harpsichord
  • According to, there are 162 students enrolled

Costs students have to cover per year:

  • Student fees: $4,740
  • Room and board: $18,135

*Full-tuition scholarships available to all students. Alice Lloyd College – Pippa Passes, KY Alice Lloyd College is yet another work college that offers full-tuition scholarships to all students. Working on campus for 10 – 20 hours a week is a graduation requirement, ensuring that all students follow through and complete their fair share. The school was founded by Alice Lloyd, who moved to Pippa Passes from Boston and found a staggering need for education in the area. Over the years, it primarily recruited from the Appalachia region and eventually grew to a schooling system that not only educated college students but also grades K – 12, who received their education from the June Buchanan School. Some quick facts about Alice Lloyd College…
  • 609 students are enrolled at Alice Lloyd College, according to
  • In 2009, 1,659 students applied – 681 were admitted

Costs students have to cover per year:

  • Student fees: $2,700
  • Room and board: $3,900
  • Books and fees: $300 – 600

*Full-tuition scholarships are made available to all students. Barclay College – Haviland, KS At Barclay College, students are able to take advantage of full-tuition scholarships as long as they are full-time students. Because of the small number of students, it’s common for students and faculty to socialize outside of the classroom, providing a unique college community atmosphere. In 1917, Scott T. Clark, a teacher and evangelist, founded the Bible Training School near a Quaker academy for high school students. It later evolved into a two-year junior college and finally, in 1969, a four-year, liberal arts institution. Some quick facts about Barclay College…
  • About 250 students are enrolled in the school
  • In 2009, 106 students applied and 39 were admitted, according to

Costs students have to cover per year…

  • Student fees: $2,690
  • Room and board: $6,600

*Full-tuition scholarships are given to students who commit to a full-time education at Barclay College. Webb Institute – Glen Cove, NY The Webb Institute is unlike any other school in the country. It offers only one academic option: a double major in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. During January and February, the school closes so that students can use that time to perform internships in marine engineering across the country and the world. The Institute was founded by William Webb, an ardent ship builder, who was considered the first naval architect in the country. His success in the field led to an interest in civic affairs, culminating in his establishment of the Webb Academy – now known as the Webb Institute. Some quick facts about Webb Institute…
  • Student body consists of 80 undergraduates
  • Job placement is 100% after gradutation
  • Applicants must meet certain health requirements in order to gain admission

Costs students have to cover per year…

  • Student organization dues: $100
  • Room and board: $12,000
  • Books and equipment: $950
  • Laptops and technology: $4,720
  • Transportation: $2,800 (varies per student)
  • Living expenses: $700
  • Winter Work: $3,500 (varies per student)

  • *The full-tuition scholarship includes library, laboratory and other course fees. Armed Forces Colleges – Various Locations There are four armed forces colleges that offer full-tuition scholarships to students: U.S. Military Academy in West Point
    U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis
    U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point

    U.S. Coast Guard Academy University of the People – Online College University of the People is the world’s first free-tuition online school. In the future, the University will have to charge an application fee of $10 – 50 and an exam administration fee of $10 – 100. Currently, the school only offers four degrees: an Associate and Bachelor in Business Administration and an Associate and Bachelor in Computer Science. Some quick facts about University of the People…
    • 500 students from almost 100 countries
    • 60% are enrolled in the Business Administration program while 40% are studying in the Computer Science program
    • Students range in age from 18 – 72

    *Because there are no tuition costs, it is free to attend online courses.

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