Tuition-Free Online Colleges

Tuition-free college is a great way to earn a degree without taking on debt. Here, we outline top tuition-free online colleges.

November 9, 2021

Tuition-Free Online Colleges

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Free Online Colleges

College Board's 2020 Trends in College Pricing reports that four-year college tuition averages $10,560-$37,650 annually. Given the high price of higher education today, tuition-free college online options attract many prospective students.

Qualifying learners trying to avoid or reduce student loan debt can benefit from tuition-free college online programs. Eligibility may depend on academic merit or financial need. Certain residency or special interest group membership qualifies other students for free online college.

The following page introduces free online college programs. Read on to learn more about online college options and requirements.

Online Colleges With Free Tuition

  1. Alice Lloyd College, Pippa Passes, KY
  2. Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
  3. Brown University, Providence, RI
  4. City College of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
  5. College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, MO

What Is 'Free College'?

Schools and organizations advertising "free college" usually feature scholarship or tuition reimbursement programs for qualifying enrollees. Most schools do not cover fees, room and board, or healthcare costs.

Many regionally accredited schools provide tuition-free college to a few scholarship students. A few city schools expand free tuition offerings to residents of an entire city. Military academies offer free education plus living expenses to enrollees who commit to active-duty military service following graduation.

Tuition reimbursement and scholarship qualifications vary, but often include academic merit, financial need, or special interest group membership. Students who do not finish their degree or fulfill their service commitment may need to repay funds.

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Featured Tuition Free Online Programs

Find a program that meets your affordability, flexibility, and education needs through an accredited, online school.

Who Is Eligible for Free Tuition?

The section below highlights several groups that may qualify for reduced or free college tuition. The information does not cover all options, so learners should contact schools to learn about tuition-free college programs and options.

Colleges with Free Tuition

Free tuition programs and schools differ in requirements, so students should explore their options. The school list below highlights several colleges featuring free tuition programs.

City colleges like City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and the City University of New York (CUNY) provide free enrollment to qualifying residents. San Francisco voters fund CCSF's program offering free tuition to San Franciscans with state and city residency. Two thirds of CUNY enrollees attend tuition free.

Military institutions cover tuition costs in exchange for military service. The U.S. Naval Academy covers 100% of tuition, living expenses, and healthcare for five years of service after graduation. U.S. Military Academy students get a similar deal after an $8,400 advanced payment as first-year students. Graduates must serve eight years of active or reserve duty.

How to Get Reduced or Cheap College Tuition

Students who do not qualify for tuition-free college online may benefit from trying other affordable education avenues. Merit- or need-based scholarships and grants from schools or outside organizations can help lower costs. Schools with flat-rate tuition save students money by letting them take more credits for the same price. Many of today's online schools and educational platforms offer more low-cost options.

Unlike per-credit tuition, flat-rate tuition features one price for all credits taken in one block, such as a semester. Also called block-rate tuition, flat-rate tuition usually allows 12-18 credits a semester. Students whose schedules let them take 14-18 credits often save money at schools offering flat-rate tuition.

Taking more credits can help students finish their degrees faster. Note that learners with jobs and/or family responsibilities may find a full-time class load challenging. Students taking under 12 credits pay more in a flat-rate tuition system than in a per-credit tuition system.

Some educational websites and schools offer low-cost classes. Some schools count low-cost classes as those with zero or very low textbook and material costs. Studying online can save learners money by offering in-state or otherwise discounted tuition rates.

Educational websites like Coursera and Udemy offer cheap classes and certification programs. Sites like Skillshare and LinkedIn Learning help learners looking for new skills in popular areas. Many organizations such as Sophia Learning can connect learners to low-cost learning options.

From the Expert

Jason White is an authority on medical-based financial aid and a member of the Association on Higher Education and Disability. White is an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, a former assistant attorney general for Florida, and former prosecutor for the Florida Department of Business. He earned his law degree from Florida State University College of Law. White authored "The Medical Loophole: The Ultimate Guide to Medical-Based Financial Aid."

Q. In your experience, is there a specific population of students that may not know about free college options available to them?

I work with prospective college students who have physical and mental disabilities. Not many students pursue medical-based financial aid despite numerous benefits. This program will pay for tuition, fees, books, some school supplies, and many other items. Students often overlook this program because they mistakenly believe their medical condition is not serious enough to qualify.

Q. What types of medical conditions qualify for free tuition?

Many common medical conditions qualify for medical-based financial aid, including asthma, allergies, ADHD, anxiety, and depression. Not many students with these conditions would consider them to be disabilities in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, I typically refrain from using that word in my discussions with students because I find it has a certain stigma that can impact their decision to apply for medical-based financial aid.

Approximately 20% of students aged 18-24 suffer from one or more significant medical conditions that would potentially qualify for medical-based financial aid. This equates to approximately two million college students in the United States each year. However, out of those two million students, only about 100,000 ever find out that their medical condition can potentially be a source of free money for college.

Q. Where can students who might qualify for medical-based financial aid find more information?

My book, "The Medical Loophole: The Ultimate Guide to Medical-Based Financial Aid," teaches students how to apply for medical-based financial aid. This information is crucial to securing medical-based financial aid because completing the FAFSA does not inform students of their potential eligibility. There is a separate application process to apply for medical-based financial aid, and most students never find out about it.

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