5 colleges you can go to for free

Student Loans »

Avoid student debt with free tuition
1 of 6
Avoid student debt with free tuition | Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Avoid student debt with free tuition

Student debt in America is rising relentlessly. According to the office of Federal Student Aid, as of June 2016, the total debt owed by students in this country has topped $1.25 trillion.

Furthermore, according to the College Board, the average price of tuition, fees, and room and board for an in-state student at a public college or university is $19,548 for the 2015-2016 school year.

For out-of-state students, average costs jump to $34,031, while private nonprofit colleges charged $43,921 on average for a single year of education.

The good news is that you don't have to be a victim. These tuition-free or tuition-reduced schools are easy on the wallet and high on value.

1 of 6

College of the Ozarks | Photo courtesy of College of the Ozarks

College of the Ozarks

Location: Point Lookout, Missouri

Tuition price: Free, not including room and board

Value: $18,730 per year

How they do it: College of the Ozarks puts students to work. To reduce the cost of hiring outside labor, the College of the Ozarks requires all students to work 15 hours per week on campus and 2 40-hour work weeks during the school year in positions ranging from landscaping to administrative jobs. Any grant or scholarship money students receive through other sources is also applied to tuition costs, and all remaining tuition is covered by the school's more than $427 million endowment. Students may cover the cost of room and board out of pocket or work it off through the summer work program.

Others like it: The other 4-year work colleges in the U.S. -- Alice Lloyd College, Berea College, Blackburn College, Sterling College, Ecclesia College and Warren Wilson College -- have similar business models, though Alice Lloyd College and Berea College are the only others that offer totally free tuition. Deep Springs College, a 2-year college in Inyo County, California, also offers free tuition.

US Air Force Academy | John Greim/Getty Images

US Air Force Academy

Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Tuition price: Free

Value: $100,000-plus per year

How they do it: The Air Force Academy is funded through the government.

Others like it: The Air Force Academy, along with the 4 other federally funded service institutions -- the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Military Academy -- all provide free tuition, though some require students to pay certain fees. After graduation, Air Force graduates are required to serve for 5 years in active duty and 3 years in inactive reserves. Service requirements at other academies are at least 5 years.

RATE SEARCH: Thinking about getting a home equity loan? Compare loan rates at today.

Webb Institute | Photo courtesy of Webb Institute

Webb Institute

Location: Glen Cove, New York

Tuition price: Tuition is free for all admitted U.S. citizens and green card holders. This does not include room and board.

Value: $45,500 per year

How they do it: The Webb Institute finds much of its funding through endowments, but it also saves money by offering only 2 select majors. At this engineering college, all students double major in naval architecture and marine engineering and take on a "winter work" internship every year that provides them with real-world experience in the maritime industry. The result is an extremely focused education that lands jobs for 100% of Webb's graduating class.

Others like it: The Webb Institute isn't the only school that saves money by limiting its academic offerings. Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia provides full-time students with a scholarship for all 4 years. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, and Cooper Union in New York City provide half-tuition scholarships for all students.

Macaulay Honors College | Photo courtesy of Macaulay Honors College

Macaulay Honors College

Location: New York City

Tuition: It's free for in-state residents. All Macaulay enrollees also receive a laptop and $7,500 in "opportunity funds" that can be used for research projects, study abroad programs, internships and service initiatives.

Value: $6,330 per year for in-state students

How they do it: Limited to top-performing students, Macaulay Honors College is part of a much broader City University of New York college network. Students here not only receive financial help with their studies, they also get the opportunity to enroll in classes on any of CUNY's 8 institutions throughout the Big Apple.

Others like it: Many schools waive tuition or provide full-ride scholarships for top academic performers, though eligibility requirements vary between institutions. Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, has scholarships starting at $32,000 reserved for students in the top 5% of their class who pass a personal interview and score at least 1400 on the critical reading and math sections of the SAT or 31 on the ACT. Weatherford College in Weatherford, Texas, also grants a one-year full-tuition scholarship to valedictorians from accredited Texas high schools. Many other institutions, including the University of Alabama and the University of Kentucky, offer smaller awards to every student who meets certain academic benchmarks.

RATE SEARCH: Need a personal loan? Get matched to the best loan rates today at

Barclay College | Photo credit: Barry Anders

Barclay College

Location: Haviland, Kansas

Tuition: Free tuition for all full-time, on-campus residents. Full-time, off-campus students receive partial scholarships.

Value: $12,500 per year, not including room and board

How they do it: This incredibly small Christian college only caters to students who know they want to work in pastoral and religion-based professions. Limited to a couple hundred students, this campus focuses on keeping its community cohesive and keeping its expenses low. On top of keeping up with classes, students here are also required to complete 96 service hours in order to graduate.

Others like it: Armed with a substantially larger student body, Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, offers half-tuition scholarships to all students who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Show Bankrate's community sharing policy
          Connect with us
  • Apply for a Private Student Loan to pay for your education
  • Find Rates

Connect with us