Free-tuition colleges do not charge tuition to any student. The tuition-free arrangement is not a loan, competitive scholarship or need-based grant but an across-the-board policy applying to all students who enroll. Not all tuition-free colleges have been tuition-free at all times in their history; the tuition-free colleges identified in this article are offering free tuition to all students enrolling in 2010-2011.
In the current, dire economy, free tuition at college seems like a deal too good to be true. What’s the catch?
There’s isn’t any catch. These tuition-free colleges have been there all along, among the thousands of universities offering postsecondary education in the USA.
Students attending tuition-free college are responsible for paying room and board costs, as applicable, and may qualify for financial aid to cover some or all of those expenses.
And don’t jump to conclusions about quality. Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio (re-opening for the 2011-2012 academic year) counts among its graduates Nobel Prize winners and MacArthur Geniuses, yet it won’t be charging tuition for the incoming inaugural class.
Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a highly competitive musical conservatory for future performing artists. Admission is based on artistic promise alone and requires an in-person audition. Curtis has offered free-tuition to all students since 1928. Nearly half of the Philadelphia Orchestra graduated from Curtis.
In New York City, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art has a long and distinguished history of providing postsecondary education to an all honors student population. Admission is highly competitive, with less than one in 10 applicants accepted each year. The Cooper Union offers three distinct programs: art, architecture, and engineering.
Throughout its history, Berea College in Berea, Kentucky has offered free-tuition to its students to the extent their educational costs are not already covered by scholarships. Berea does not charge an application fee, either. Berea is a liberal arts college.
Free Tuition, Work Required
Some free tuition schools were founded on the principle of requiring students to work in lieu of paying for an education.
College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri bills itself as Hardwork U where students don’t pay tuition and work for an education. College of the Ozarks doesn’t even participate in Federal student financial assistance programs, it is so committed to the concept of debt-free education. This Christian school is also known as a “stone cold sober ” school, according to its website.
In Big Pine, California, Deep Springs College is an all-male two year institution founded on the principle that manual labor and political deliberation are integral parts of liberal arts education. No one pays for the education at Deep Springs except through labor. Deep Springs College is located on a cattle ranch and alfalfa farm. Each student is required to spend two terms on the boarding house crew assigned to such tasks as mopping, washing dishes, composting, and trash pick-up. Some of the other duties performed by students include butcher, dairy, farm irrigators and balers, animal feeders and gardeners.
Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Kentucky provides free tuition to qualified students from 108 central Appalachia counties. The free tuition is coupled with a mandatory work requirement.
Half-Tuition Replaced Tuition-Free
Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts used to be among the most respected tuition-free colleges in the nation. Due to economic conditions, Olin is offering 50 percent tuition to all students enrolling for 2011-2012. That’s still approximately $19,000 annual tuition savings.