Believe it or not, there are a few colleges that don’t charge tuition
Every college has students who don’t pay anything, either because their families’ finances justify lots of financial aid or because they have some sort of merit-based scholarship. These financial aid packages and merit scholarships are usually specific to the colleges at which they are used. They are something to research as part of your college applications. But there are a few colleges that don’t charge anyone for tuition.
Ironically, as the gulf widens between the haves and the have-nots in American society the list of free colleges is getting shorter. The relatively new Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts was totally free when it opened and several of our own students attended it when it was free, but now it charges tuition. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City was free for over a century but decided to start charging tuition in 2013. In a way these were rational decisions, because these schools became so selective that most of the students admitted were from middle class and affluent families anyway. Why not make them pay something, since they can easily afford it?
But there are still a few free colleges. You may need to spend some money for room, board, books, travel or various fees. The total annual expense of attending these places is still far lower than most colleges, and all of them are in interesting places and offer interesting curricula – especially if you like the military.
The Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York is free and it even gives you a laptop and other perks. You do have to be a resident of New York City to be eligible. http://www.macaulay.cuny.edu/
The small and selective Webb Institute in Glen Cove, New York has only one major: Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. You get to build a ship. http://www.webb.edu/
The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia has diploma, bachelor’s and master’s programs in music and charges nothing for tuition. http://www.curtis.edu/
Deep Springs College, on a ranch in California’s high desert, charges nothing for tuition but it is a two-year college. You take classes and also work twenty hours a week as a ranch hand. It is very prestigious and competitive to get into. You earn an associate’s degree in the liberal arts and then transfer to a 4-year college for your junior and senior years. http://www.deepsprings.edu/home
Berea College in Kentucky is a traditional small liberal arts college where every student works part time on campus instead of paying tuition. Students must have financial need: you simply can’t go here if you’re well-off. Berea accepts students from all over the USA and the world, but about 70% are from Kentucky or nearby states. https://www.berea.edu/
(There are two less-known colleges in the same area of the country as Berea with similar deals: Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky and College of the Ozarks in Missouri. These institutions are so specifically intended for low-income, Appalachian and/or Christian students that they would not be appropriate for most students at our school.)
Alice Lloyd College: http://www.alc.edu/
College of the Ozarks: https://www.cofo.edu/
The United States Government operates five academies that train young men and women for the armed services. These charge nothing for tuition, room or board. In fact, you get paid to attend most of them. They grant very prestigious bachelor’s degrees. However, they are not really “free” because a condition of attending them is that you accept a commission in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, or U.S. Naval Reserves and serve for five years after you graduate. (You are, of course, paid for this.) It isn’t something to be undertaken casually, but it’s a tremendous opportunity. They are:
The United States Military Academy in West Point, New York: www.westpoint.edu/
The United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland: http://www.usna.edu/homepage.php
The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs: http://www.usafa.af.mil/
The United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. You get to train on a square-rigged sailing ship! http://www.cga.edu/
The United States Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, New York. “Merchant Marine” refers to commercial ships like freighters, tankers and ferries. This academy will train you to be a ship’s captain or officer. https://www.usmma.edu/