Tuition-free colleges sounds a bit made-up, I know. It’s the type of thing that would exist in a perfect world. A world where there are no student loans and college education is available to everyone at zero cost.
Though many schools can find financial support through donations, endowments, and fundraising, operating without tuition may not be sustainable for even the largest of schools.
In fact, more than 46 percent of public higher education revenue was sourced from tuition dollars last year, according to a study by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.
However, colleges with free tuition do exist. And they could offer the best of both worlds: a valuable education while adding to your savings.
And while some of the schools listed below are indeed free of tuition costs, attending them isn’t entirely a free ride. Some mandate students to work in exchange for no tuition. Others impose strict eligibility requirements.
Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of attending one of these specialized tuition-free colleges.
Tuition free colleges in the U.S.
These are just a handful of colleges that offer free tuition, usually in tandem with a rigorous work study program.
Alice Lloyd College, Pippa Passes, Ky.
Work study is usually optional at most schools. But at this small, four-year private college full-time students work a minimum of 10 hours per week (or 160 hours per semester) either on-campus or off-campus in exchange for zero tuition.
Alice Lloyd College is one of only seven work colleges in the U.S.
Barclay College, Haviland, Kan.
Living on campus has its benefits at Barclay College, a private Christian college. Resident students can pursue their degrees free of tuition.
Barclay College automatically offers a full-tuition scholarship worth $12,500 for all resident students to help underclassmen avoid going into debt.
However, students are still responsible for their own room and board, estimated at $8,400 per year.
Webb Institute, Glen Cove, N.Y.
This engineering school off of Long Island offers a full tuition scholarship to all enrolled full-time students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
This tuition scholarship is valued at $47,000 for the 2016-2017 academic year. However, undergraduates may still need to apply for some student loans to pay for room and board.
There is one catch, though. The school only offers one course of study: a double Bachelors of Science in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.
What are the benefits of attending tuition free colleges?
Here are a few pros to consider when deciding on attending a college free of tuition costs.
Student loan debt is all but eliminated.
With zero tuition, you all but avoid student loans and the debt load that comes with them.
The money you save can be used towards future life expenses, such as a home down payment or interest-bearing savings effort.
Keep in mind thought that attending a tuition-free (or tuition-reduced) school sometimes involves paying for your own room and board, along with other fees. This may require you to borrow some money.
Smaller class sizes.
The colleges we listed above all have a small student to professor ratio.
This gives students a more attentive, one-on-one educational experience compared to being one student among thousands at a large public university.
That says a lot, considering that the private school experience you’d receive comes at zero tuition.
They help build a stronger work ethic.
Since many tuition-free colleges mandate working in exchange for tuition, attending one may help develop a student’s sense of responsibility, leadership, and professionalism.
Many students who work during college also find they are better prepared for entering the workforce after graduating — compared to attending a public school where part-time work is optional.
And with the burden of student loans mostly off the mind of a student borrower, you can focus more on your academic and job performance, as well as cultivate real-world skills without encumbering debt.
Tuition-free colleges may benefit lower income demographics.
Many students who can’t afford to attend a popular public or private university, even with financial aid or scholarships, can benefit from a college that charges no tuition.
What are some drawbacks of tuition free colleges?
Attending a college with free tuition may have a price. Even though you’ll owe no money, it could cost you in other ways.
A narrow academic focus.
Unless you’re looking to major in theology, the arts, or a very specific line of study, your choice of college majors may be limited.
Very few tuition-free schools, apart from the ones we’ve mentioned here, offer a broad curriculum. It may not be worth majoring in a field you dislike just to save on tuition.
Inhibits how you manage your finances.
Having zero tuition could result in becoming less financially aware and responsible.
When students aren’t involved in managing their student loans or financing their college education, it could impact how they handle their finances after graduation
Exclusiveness may keep you excluded.
Many tuition-free colleges have strict eligibility guidelines. These could be only allowing students of a certain gender in. Or, applicants may perhaps need to demonstrate a high financial need.
This could lead to admission rates in the single digits for some tuition-free schools.
Are tuition free colleges worth it?
If you’re intent on attending a college that offers free tuition, you should still consider applying to a range of other major public or private universities. Even if they’re your second, third, or fourth choices.
Although some tuition-free colleges don’t participate in any kind of lending program, you should still go ahead and fill out your FAFSA during your senior year of high school.
It may help determine if you meet the financial requirements for admission into an exclusive, tuition-free school. Or, you’ll also be able to see what types of student loans you qualify for if you end up attending a state or public university.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2018!
|1 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or Nationwide Bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Information advertised valid as of 11/1/2018. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
2 Important Disclosures for Discover.
3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for PNC.
PNC Bank is one of the nation’s largest education loan providers. For over 40 years, PNC has been committed to helping students and their families make possible the adventure of college.
6 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
7 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
8 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
9 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|3.94% – 12.78%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.06% – 13.06%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.34% – 12.99%2||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 11.10%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.03% – 11.23%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.12% – 13.13%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.62% – 10.01%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.93% – 9.81%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.26% – 12.13%9||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|