The prospect of attending college can be both exciting and daunting, particularly given the cost of tuition these days regardless of where you plan to attend school – Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Missouri – doesn’t matter. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree can easily cost much more than $100,000, putting higher education out of reach for many. However, there are some colleges and universities that offer free tuition and we’ve put together a list of the top ten institutions of higher education that will be easy on your checkbook. Admission to these schools can be very competitive with most accepting a small number of students each year.
10. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, New York City, New York
Macaulay Honors College is unique in that its students enroll at one of eight colleges within the City University of New York network and receive guidance through the college’s advising program to develop a comprehensive, individualized academic program. Macaulay’s own campus is located a few blocks from verdant Central Park on the upper west side of Manhattan.
9. U.S. Air Force Academy – Colorado Springs, Colorado
As a dedicated military academy focused on preparing its students to serve as officers in the Air Force, the Air Force Academy offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 30 major areas of study. With an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio, each student can get individual attention from instructors.
Admission to the Academy is highly competitive and applicants must be nominated for admission by a member of Congress or the Vice President of the United States. All accepted students receive a scholarship valued at over $400,000 that covers tuition and room and board for all four years at the Academy. Each cadet is expected to complete a service commitment by serving several years on active duty and reserves after graduation.
8. U.S. Merchant Marine Academy – Kings Point, New York
One of the United States Military Academies, the Merchant Marine Academy prepares students for careers in the maritime industry and armed forces. Around 1,000 students enjoy its 82-acre campus on the north shore of Long Island to earn degrees in marine engineering, naval science, marine transportation, and other fields. Unlike other United States Military Academies where graduates are required to fulfill a service obligation through enlistment in a branch of the U.S. armed forces, graduates of the Merchant Marine Academy have the option to fulfill their service obligation through private employment in the maritime or transportation industry.
Students are not charged for tuition but are responsible for other fees and expenses, including a laptop computer. Need-based financial aid is available to students to assist in covering these other expenses.
7. Webb Institute – Glen Cove, New York
Founded in 1889, Webb Institute is a highly-specialized college that offers a single undergraduate degree option in naval architecture and marine engineering. Located on the Long Island Sound on a 26-acre campus with its own private beach, the Institute’s 80 students benefit from a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1. Graduates of Webb Institute also enjoy success in the job market with a 100% job placement rate.
All students receive a full-tuition scholarship and are responsible only for other costs including room and board, books, and other items.
6. Barclay College – Haviland, Kansas
Founded by Quaker settlers in 1917, Barclay is a Bible college that offers degree programs in Youth Ministry, Pastoral Ministry, Christian Elementary Education and other fields. Located in the small town of Haviland, Kansas
with a population of under 1,000, Barclay has a 13-acre campus and offers an environment free of the distractions present at many other colleges.
With an enrollment of around 250 students and a student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1, students are part of a close-knit community and receive individual attention from professors. To be eligible for full-tuition scholarships, students must stay in on-campus housing. Students who live off campus are eligible for tuition scholarships covering about one-third of the total tuition cost.
5. Curtis Institute of Music – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
For those looking to make a professional career in the musical performing arts, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia offers merit-based full tuition scholarships to students regardless of financial need. Admission is highly competitive with a total enrollment of only 165 students.
An in-person audition is required for all areas of study except vocal studies, for which a recording will be accepted through an online portal. In the lively city of Philadelphia, students at Curtis participate in a robust schedule of public performances throughout the school year to “learn by doing.” True to its mission to educate and train gifted musicians, the Institute does not specify a minimum or maximum age to audition.
4. Alice Lloyd College – Pippa Passes, Kentucky
On its 175-acre campus surrounding Caney Creek in Pippa Passes, Kentucky
, Alice Lloyd College offers a tuition-free education to applicants from 108 counties in the Appalachian region. All students participate in the college’s Student Work Program, working a minimum of 160 hours per semester on a job on campus or in the local community. Founded by Alice Spencer Geddes Lloyd and Jane Buchanan in 1923, the college offers 13 degree programs and several pre-professional programs to prepare students for advanced studies in law, medicine and more.
3. Cooper Union – New York City, New York
Founded in 1859 by Peter Cooper, the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art has offered a full-tuition scholarship to every student since its inception. Located in bustling Manhattan, Cooper Union offers degree programs in architecture, fine arts, and several engineering disciplines with an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 8.5:1.
Cooper Union has 1,000 full-time undergraduate students and accepts 7% of applicants based on merit alone regardless of financial need. Its campus features the new technologically-advanced 41 Cooper Square building that incorporates multiple environmentally-friendly features and state-of-the-art labs and classrooms.
2. Berea College – Berea, Kentucky
Berea College was founded in 1855 and was the first interracial and co-ed college in the American South. Its substantial endowment allows the college to offer enough financial assistance, along with federal and state grants, to all students with financial need to cover tuition in full as well as a laptop computer that each student can keep after graduation.
Situated in scenic Berea, Kentucky, the college boasts a 10:1 student-to-teacher ratio and students can earn a degree in one of 28 fields of study. Each student participates in the college’s Work Program, earning enough to help pay for room and board and other expenses during the school year.
1. College of the Ozarks – Point Lookout, Missouri
Dubbed “Hard Work U,” College of the Ozarks promises that students don’t pay tuition, work for their education, graduate without debt and develop character. The college offers degrees in 34 academic areas on a 1,000-acre campus overlooking picturesque Lake Taneycomo in southwestern Missouri.
College of the Ozarks accept students from the Ozarks region with demonstrated financial need. Students work 15 hours each week during the school year and two 40-hour weeks when school is not in session in exchange for free tuition. The college believes that the work program is so important that each student’s work performance is recorded on their academic records along with their grades. The college’s 1,500 students enjoy a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1.