You won’t be able to drink it on some of these campuses, but hey, that’s not worse than graduating with six figures of debt.
The cost of a college education is something that many students grapple with on a daily basis and is often prohibitive for those who aren’t as economically well off as others. Luckily almost all colleges, have financial aid options for the cash strapped among us which vary from standard loans to grants to scholarships. Some schools however go a step further and offer to waive tuition costs completely which means that anyone can get a competitive college education totally gratis – that is, as long as prospective students meet some very specific, and sometimes very strange, criteria.
6. Berea College, Kentucky
Berea College, a liberal arts school located in the middle of Kentucky, is a fairly unique college in that it provides a full-tuition scholarship to every student that is accepted to study there (worth about $25,000), and in some cases, even pays students to attend. Like anything that sounds too good to be true, there are a number of catches to this enticingly open door into the world of higher education. First, prospective students must come from low income backgrounds and actually require financial assistance to attend the college, so miserly cheapskates looking to save a buck are out. Second, students must show strong academic potential by achieving a high score on the SAT (1400+) and have maintained a lofty high school GPA. Also since Berea is a Christian school, it helps to actually be Christian and enjoy talking about God’s place in Calculus class. So if you’re a poor, God fearing genius living in the middle of Kentucky, you have a shot at attending Berea college completely on the house. That is, as long as you’re willing to live in Berea’s optimistically odd “Ecovillage” where apartments are made of straw bales and sewage is recycled to fill the swimming pool; and also don’t mind working the required 10-15 hours a week on campus in a position chosen for you that ranges from dish washing to toilet cleaning. Still sound like a good deal?
5. Webb Institute, New York
On the quiet north coast of Long Island sits Webb Institute, a small but prestigious private college that is often ranked as one of the best in the country despite most people having never heard of it. Because of a large endowment left behind by her founder, Webb is one of the only colleges in the world that simply does not charge tuition so students are only responsible for negligible room and board, books and administrative costs. The problem with Webb however is that it is also one of the most exclusive schools in the country, comprised of a total of 90 students at any given time so good luck getting in. Oh, the Institute also offers only one degree: a Bachelor of Science in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, so if you do want to attend this free college, you’d better really love designing and building ships and only ships. The coursework is extremely intense and internships are required so not only must one be the cream of the crop to just get into Webb, they must also be incredibly bright and hardworking in order to graduate, as future nuclear powered Naval warship designers ought to be.
4. The College of the Ozarks, Missouri
Nicknamed “Hard Work U.” by her alumni, The College of the Ozarks in Missouri offers a very similar work-based scholarship as Berea College but is far easier to get into as the only real requisite for admission is financial destitution which in this current economy, covers just about everyone. Ozarks covers all of the cost of tuition so while each student is still responsible for the price of books, room and board, and other fees, the college picks up the majority of their own bill. They offer this scholarship through an on-campus work program where each student is required to work at least 15 hours a week in addition to classes while also pulling two 40 hour work weeks during breaks like Christmas and Spring Break. Not only that, but Ozarks only admits those of a certain character; namely Conservative Christian students who regard drinking and partying as unacceptable and who stay away from “unwholesome attire.” Instead of Hard Work U., perhaps Ozarks should consider other nicknames such as “No Fun U.” or even “Super Uptight U.”
3. Deep Springs College, California
Located in the beautiful arid desert along the California/Nevada border, Deep Springs College is a tiny community college that is vastly different to your typical stoner run two year school. As such, it is one of the most competitive schools in the country partly because of it’s $0 price tag but mostly because there can only be 30 students at the college at any given time; so one would find themselves extremely lucky to be admitted. But because there are no free lunches in nature, there are a number of catches that must be examined before admission celebrations should commence. Deep Springs only offers one educational route: an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts which happens to be one of the most useless degrees that exist today aside from Philosophy. Also, because Deep Springs is also a working farm, Students must work at least 20 hours a week maintaining not only the school, but the ranch, its alfalfa crop and its cattle herd too. Additionally, smoking anywhere near the campus is strictly prohibited because a wooden building surrounded by hay-bales in the middle of the desert would go up like, well, a wooden building surrounded by hay-bales in the middle of the desert. Oh, one last little detail; Deep Springs College doesn’t allow women to attend as they may distract from all the manly ranchin’ taking place. Sorry ladies.
2. Curtis Institute of Music, Pennsylvania
If you happen to be musically inclined and wish to attend a center of higher education completely dedicated to the art of arias but were forced to make your own oboe out of a stick in the backyard for lack of funds, then look no further. The Curtis Institute of Music is one of the most prestigious music schools in the country and is intended to be a springboard for Mozartian musical geniuses to realize their potential and leap into concert halls everywhere irregardless of their financial stability. To this end, the college offers a full tuition scholarship to every student they admit which means attending Curtis is completely free. The trouble is, Curtis has the lowest acceptance rate of any institution of higher education in the United States; 1/3 lower than even the toughest Ivy League schools. This is partly because the Institute only admits enough students to fill a single orchestra (about 150) and partly because in order to be admitted, hopeful students must sit a rigorous audition process in order to prove they are already a musical prodigy before being allowed into the Institute; which begs the question – what do the best musicians in Pennsylvania hope to learn about music at Curtis?
1. Any State College in Michigan
That’s right, one can attend any state sponsored college or university in Michigan completely tuition free. This incredible, too good to be true opportunity is possible because of an innovative and relatively new social project called The Kalamazoo Promise. Basically, the Promise is a pledge made by a group of anonymous donors to pay anywhere from 65%-100% of a student’s college tuition if that student manages to simply graduate from public high school; something that is evidently extremely difficult to do in Michigan. But there’s a catch. The Kalamazoo Promise only covers students who attend public high school in the small city of Kalamazoo, Michigan and live within the same school district. Also, one can’t just move to Kalamazoo during their senior year to take advantage of the free tuition either as the minimum Promise scholarship of 65% only applies to students who have attended Kalamazooan (yes, that is a real word) high schools for at least four years, and only those who have lived in the town their whole lives can hope to receive the full 100%. So those (un)lucky enough to hail from good ol’ Kalamazoo from birth can get a free ride on the typically expensive higher education journey. As for the rest of us, well, we’d better start practicing the oboe.
Matthew Hayden is an experienced freelance sports and comedy writer and all around great guy. You may have seen his work at Cracked, Gunaxin, and now of course as a regular writer for thebestcolleges.org. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org