22 Colleges That Offer Free Tuition for Students

This article has been updated from its original publication on June 17 with information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's proposal for affordable tuition as well as information regarding the U.S. Military Academy. The newest slide is first on the list. 

College student debt is soaring, as many recent graduates are well aware. It follows, then, that prospective students would be making the affordability and profitability of their education a priority when selecting their future school.

The notion of free college tuition has made it to the presidential campaign trail. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders proposed free tuition at all public colleges and universities. Hillary Clinton has come out with her own tuition affordability proposal, under which students from families earning $85,000 or less would be eligible for free tuition at four-year public colleges and universities. The threshold would expand to families making $125,000 or less by 2021.

"American families are drowning in debt caused by ever-rising college costs and it is imperative that the next president put forward a bold plan to make debt-free college available to all," Clinton said in a statement, as cited by The Wall Street Journal

In the short term, some colleges and universities are already looking to alleviate the financial burdens many students are subjected to after graduation.

Some schools, including members of the Ivy League, are looking to increase their competitiveness in recruiting and enrolling undergraduate students by making it more affordable for low- and middle-income students to attend -- namely by replacing needs-based loans with grants or scholarships as well as covering the entire cost of tuition for some based on family income. 

There are also some small colleges that offer free tuition and cover the cost of other expenses for all of their students. The catch? These schools tend to be super-specialized or based on Christian values. Some of these schools are considered Work Colleges, which is a group of seven colleges in the U.S. that integrate part-time work as part of a student's total education.

But just because a college covers tuition doesn't mean that all expenses will be covered. It varies widely what each school will and won't cover.

Here are 22 schools that offer free tuition to at least some of their students.

United States Military Academy at West Point
United States Military Academy at West Point

The United States Military Academy at West Point offers all selected students to the elite academy free tuition, room and board and expenses that are fully paid. Graduates from the school, located in West Point, N.Y., receive a Bachelors of Science in one of approximately 36 majors but must also serve for five years on active duty. 

West Point is not for the faint of heart. Not only must cadets be academically strong, scoring high on SAT and ACT exams, but students must also be physically fit (and are required to play competitive sports while at the academy) to endure the grueling demands of the required military service after graduation. 

If the Army is not your thing, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy also offer free tuition to enrollees willing to serve their country. 

Alice Lloyd College
Alice Lloyd College

Alice Lloyd College is a private four-year liberal arts college in Pippa Passes, Ky., centered on Christian values. The school has around 600 students. Alice Lloyd College offers free tuition to students who are from the Central Appalachian region.

Through its status as a Work College status, students can attend tuition-free college but are required to work at least 10 hours a week to offset education costs through its Student Work Program.

Students are still required to pay for room and board, personal expenses and fees.

Barclay College
Barclay College

Barclay College, founded by Quaker settlers in 1917 in Haviland, Kan., as the Kansas Central Bible Training School. From 1925 to 1990, the school was known as the Friends Bible College. The college welcomes students from all evangelical faiths and today has about 300 students.

The program provides bachelor's degree programs in youth ministry, pastoral ministry, worship arts, Bible/theology, sports and recreational leadership, Christian elementary education and business administration, among other programs. Barclay also offers associate degrees and master's degrees.

"Our mission is to prepare students in a Bible-centered environment for effective Christian life, service, and leadership," according to its Web site.

All on-campus students receive a full-tuition scholarship, worth $12,500 per year, the school says. Students still pay for room and board and other fees. The total cost for students living on campus for the 2015-2016 year was about $22,990 plus living expenses.

Berea College
Berea College

Berea College is a private liberals arts college located in Berea, Ky., about 40 miles south of Lexington. The school has about 1,600 undergraduate students.

The cost of attendance for the 2016-2017 year would be $35,042 including tuition, but the college grants tuition scholarships to all of its students. Instead of paying tuition, students are required to work at least 10 hours per week in campus-approved jobs through the school's Work College status. Students and families are still required to pay for housing, meals, books and supplies and other expenses.

Brown University
Brown University

Ivy League school Brown University is located in Providence, R.I. The cost to go to Brown for the 2015-2016 year was $62,046. Brown has approximately 6,300 undergraduate students.

With annual tuition hovering over $50,000 at the prestigious school, Brown University offers free tuition to students whose parents earn less than $60,000, an initiative it started in 2008.

For students whose families earn less than $100,000 a year, the school issues grants rather than student loans.

College of the Ozarks
College of the Ozarks

College of the Ozarks is a private Christian liberal arts college located in Point Lookout, Mo. The college has an enrollment of about 1,500.

C of O, as it is known, is a tuition-free college for full-time students. The school boasts that all full-time students defray the cost of education by working campus jobs. In fact, the College "openly discourages debt by not participating in any federal, state, or private loan programs and leads by example through having no institutional debt of any kind," it says on its Web site. (Students can receive federal and state grants.)

Through its Work College status, students are required to work 15 hours a week at an on-campus work station and two 40-hour work weeks during the academic year. The school provides a summer work program to cover the cost of room and board.

Cornell University
Cornell University

Cornell University says that for students coming from families with annual income below $60,000 and total assets below $100,000, parents will not be expected to contribute to their child's education.

The cost to go to Cornell for the 2016-2017 year is estimated to be $50,869 for students who live in New York and $67,613 for those out-of-state.

Cornell had a total of 21,904 students enrolled for the fall 2015 semester. The school has about a 15% acceptance rate, according to Princeton Review.

Curtis Institute of Music
Curtis Institute of Music

Curtis Institute of Music is located in Philadelphia and offers gifted students the ability to earn a degree in one of many areas of professional musical performance.

The highly selective school is small, at just 175 students, yet students are "drawn by a tuition-free, performance-inspired learning culture," according to the school's Web site. All students must audition in person.

On average, 6% of the principal seats in each of the top 25 largest orchestras are held by Curtis alumni. Graduates have also gone on to perform at the Metropolitan Opera and won many prestigious awards.

The Curtis Institute of Music provides merit-based, full-tuition scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate students. For the 2015-2016 year, the annual value per scholarship was $39,890 for undergraduate students and $51,309 for graduate students. No financial aid application is required for the full-tuition scholarship.

Students may still need financial aid for living expenses and annual fees.

Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College says students coming from families making $100,000 or less will be offered free tuition, though students and parents may decide to take an additional loan to cover the family contribution or additional expenses, according to its Web site.

The cost to go to Dartmouth for the 2016-2017 year for a first-year student is estimated to be $69,879.

Dartmouth had a total of 6,200 students enrolled for the fall 2014 semester. The school has about a 12% acceptance rate, according to Princeton Review.

Deep Springs College
Deep Springs College

Deep Springs College is a small two-year liberal arts college that has just 200 undergraduate students. A maximum of 15 students are admitted each year.

Students at Deep Springs covers all students' tuition and room and board, which is estimated at around $50,000. Students still have to cover the costs of books, incidentals and travel.

Deep Springs considers itself a unique institution founded on "the three pillars of labor, self-governance, and academics, aims to prepare its students for lives of service to humanity," it says. It is located on a cattle ranch on the border of California and Nevada, about 40 miles east of Bishop, Calif.

The school, once all-male, opened its doors to women in 2013.

Duke University
Duke University

Duke University pledges to meet 100% of a student's financial need.

Students from families with incomes below $40,000 will not need to take on loans or make a parental contribution, while families with incomes under $60,000 will not need to make a parental contribution. Additionally, the school offers capped loans for eligible families with incomes over $100,000, according to Princeton Review.

The cost to go to Duke for the 2016-2017 year is estimated to be $70,092.

Duke had a total of 14,950 students enrolled for the fall 2015 semester. The school has about a 12% acceptance rate, according to Princeton Review.

Harvard University
Harvard University

Harvard University says that for students coming from families with annual income below $65,000, parents will not be expected to contribute to their child's education.

Under the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, for families with income between $65,000 and $150,000, parents are expected to contribute between 0% and 10% of their earnings, while those with incomes above $150,000 will be asked to pay proportionately more, the school says on its Web site. Home equity and retirement assets are not considered by the school when determining financial need.

The cost to go to Harvard for the 2016-2017 year is estimated to be between $66,900 and $72,100.

Harvard had about 21,000 total students enrolled for the fall 2015 semester. The university has about a 6% acceptance rate, says Princeton Review.

Macaulay Honors College at City University of New York
Macaulay Honors College at City University of New York

Macaulay Honors College is a liberal arts college that is a part of the City University of New York system. The college was launched in 2001 to "provide a globally competitive program for the most talented and academically gifted of New York's students," according to its Web site.

The school currently has more than 2,000 students enrolled.

The school will cover all students' undergraduate tuition (students must be residents of New York state) and provide students with a laptop computer, a cultural passport to New York arts and cultural venues and a grant from the Opportunities Fund to pursue global research and internships.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology provides free tuition for families earning less than $75,000 a year, making sure that all tuition charges are covered by "an MIT scholarship, federal and state grants and/or outside scholarship funds."

The cost to go to MIT for the 2015-2016 year was estimated at $63,250. MIT had about 11,300 total students enrolled for the fall 2015 semester.

The university has about an 8% acceptance rate for applicants, according to Princeton Review.

Princeton University
Princeton University

Princeton University became the first university in 2001 to offer students financial aid packages that replace loans with grant aid, which covers tuition.

For students from families with annual incomes lower than $65,000, the average financial aid package covers all of their costs for tuition, room and board. As well, for those with incomes up to $140,000, students' aid packages will fully cover tuition, Princeton said.

The cost to go to Princeton University for the 2016-2017 year is estimated to be $63,690.

Princeton had about 8,000 students enrolled for the 2014-2015 year. The university has about a 7% acceptance rate for applicants, the school said.

Stanford University
Stanford University

Stanford University made news last spring when it announced that students from families with annual incomes and assets below $125,000 would not have to pay tuition, raising the level from $100,000 previously.

For families making less than $65,000 in annual income, the prestigious university was also throwing in free room and board for students.

The cost to go to Stanford University for the 2016-2017 year is estimated to be $66,696.

Stanford had roughly 7,000 undergraduate students enrolled for the fall 2015 semester. Approximately 70% of students receive some form of financial aid.

The university has about a 5% acceptance rate for applicants, according to Princeton Review.

Texas A&M University
Texas A&M University

Low and middle-income students have options at Texas A&M University. The school offers what's called the Aggie Assurance program, which "aids students with family income below $60,000 by pledging to provide enough scholarships and grants to pay tuition for all eligible students," it says on its Web site.

Students will still have to pay (or get financial aid) for fees, housing and books, among other expenses.

The cost to go to Texas A&M University for the 2016-2017 year is estimated at $27,272 for Texas residents and at $47,988 for out-of-state residents.

Texas A&M had just under 50,000 undergraduate students enrolled for the fall 2015 semester. The university has about a 66% acceptance rate for applicants, according to Princeton Review.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in Chapel Hill, N.C., had about 4,100 enrolled undergraduate students for the fall 2015 semester.

The cost to go to the UNC Chapel Hill for the 2016-2017 year is estimated to be $24,898 for North Carolina residents and $51,466 for out-of-state residents. The cost includes tuition, housing and meals, books and personal expenses, and fees, according to the university's Web site.

The university has about a 30% acceptance rate for applicants.

Students are from low-income families have the opportunity to graduate from the school debt-free through what's called the Carolina Covenant.

The Carolina Covenant offers "debt-free education to any eligible student whose family income falls at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines (about $47,700 for a family of four)" and has no other resources to pay for college, according to Chapel Hill's Web site.

Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University, located in Nashville, Tenn., had about 6,800 undergraduate students for the fall 2015 semester.

Vanderbilt meets 100% of a family's demonstrated financial need through grants, scholarships and work opportunities, it said. Since 2009, the school has been committed to replacing need-based loans with scholarship and/or grants.

Still there is an expected family contribution for most students, which may or may not be met with loans, Vanderbilt says on its Web site.

The cost to go to Vanderbilt University for the 2016-2017 year is estimated to be $64,654, which includes tuition, housing and meals, books and personal expenses, and fees, according to the university's Web site.

For the 2014-2015 school year, the median needs-based awards ranged from $18,458 (for families with annual income above $200,000) to $61,658 for low-income families, the university said.

Webb Institute
Webb Institute

The Webb Institute is an engineering school located in Glen Cove, N.Y., that offers students a double major in naval architecture and marine engineering and the only full-tuition scholarship undergraduate program of its kind in the U.S., according to the school's Web site.

The school is small. It had just 92 students enrolled in 2015 and all of them live on campus. Students still have to pay for room and board, books, software and personal expenses.

The school boasts that students have 100% job placement at major companies within one year of graduation 

The school has a 36% acceptance rate, according to Princeton Review.

Williamson College of the Trades
Williamson College of the Trades

The Williamson College of the Trades is a three-year men's-only trade school located in Media, Pa.

Students study carpentry, masonry, construction technology, horticulture, landscaping and turf management, machine tool technology or power plant technology, among other fields, at the small school, with just 265 students enrolled. Upon graduation, students receive a craftsman diploma or an associate degree.

The trade college gives all students full scholarships to cover textbooks, tuition and room and board. The college uses its endowment to cover expenses as well as private fundraising. Enrollment is limited to 95 students each year, the school says.

The school subscribes to the Judeo-Christian perspective, fostering the values of faith, integrity, diligence, excellence and service in its students, according to its Web site. Students are required to live on-campus in a supervised dorm, engage in work detail, attend daily chapel service and follow a dress code.

Yale University
Yale University

Yale University, located in New Haven, Conn., said it meets 100% of demonstrated need for all students.

If a family earns less than $65,000 in total gross income, Yale does not require financial contribution to their student's education. The school says that "100% of the student's total cost of attendance will be financed with a Yale Financial Aid Award."

For families that earn between $65,000 and $200,000, Yale uses a "sliding scale that begins at 1% just above $65,000 and moves toward 20% at the $200,000 level," it said.

"Yale does not require students to take out loans for their education," according to the university's Web site. "Instead, Yale meets 100% of demonstrated need for all admitted students with a financial aid package consisting of need-based scholarships, term-time employment, and a student income contribution."

The cost to go to Yale University for the 2016-2017 year is estimated to be $68,175, which includes tuition, room and board, books and personal expenses, according to the university's Web site.

Yale had 5,505 undergraduate students for the fall 2015 semester.

Advertisement

More from Debt Management

How to Get Out of a Car Lease Early Without Penalty

How to Get Out of a Car Lease Early Without Penalty

What Is a Fiduciary and What Are Their Responsibilities?

What Is a Fiduciary and What Are Their Responsibilities?

How to Save Money: Daily, Weekly and Lifelong Habits

How to Save Money: Daily, Weekly and Lifelong Habits

How to Prevent Debt From Destroying Your Retirement

How to Prevent Debt From Destroying Your Retirement

How Long Does It Take for a Check to Clear?

How Long Does It Take for a Check to Clear?