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.

February 10, 2022 , Modified on April 8, 2022

Tuition-Free Online Colleges

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Find the List of Tuition-Free Colleges

College tuition rates have increased dramatically in recent decades. For 2021-22, CollegeBoard reports that tuition at a four-year public school averages $10,740 for in-state students and $27,560 for out-of-state students. However, qualified learners could lower their education costs by enrolling at tuition free online colleges.

Tuition free colleges serve all types of students based on different qualifications. Some require applicants to show significant financial need or academic achievement. Others serve students of certain backgrounds. This guide highlights tuition free online colleges, including common application requirements and other ways to lower education costs.

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'?

While some institutions run specifically as tuition free online colleges, most schools provide free tuition through financial aid programs. These schools offer tuition reductions or benefits for specific types of applicants, like low-income or military students.

Students can also benefit from specialized tuition support programs, such as grants and scholarships. Even with free tuition, students may still need to pay administrative expenses like registration or graduation fees.

Many colleges let students attend without paying tuition, but these schools do not exist in all states. Students seeking free online college should research where they can take free online college courses.

AffordableCollegesOnline.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Who Is Eligible for Free Tuition?

Many types of students take advantage of free online college. Students who might qualify for free or greatly reduced tuition should ask desired schools about their financial aid programs.

Military service members get considerable financial support to fund higher education both during and after their service. Service members receive up to 100% tuition coverage through the Military Tuition Assistance program. The program supports Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Marine service members.

The GI Bill® also provides financial support for higher education. Service members use the Top-Up program to pay for additional higher education expenses beyond what Tuition Assistance covers.

Most colleges have tried to increase their socioeconomic diversity in recent years by admitting more low-income students. Many schools now prioritize enrolling low-income, high-achieving students. The most qualified applicants may receive sizable financial aid packages that completely eliminate tuition costs.

Low-income undergraduate students may also receive Pell Grants, which provide financial support for education that never requires repayment. Students should fill out the FAFSA to see if they qualify for Pell Grants.

Many colleges offer tuition assistance to employees and/or their children. These tuition programs usually maintain very specific admission requirements. Sometimes, employers limit eligibility to certain types of academic programs or degrees. Employees usually need to work for the college a set number of years to become eligible.

Tuition remission programs may cover some or all tuition costs for college employees or their children. Applicants interested in these programs should contact their school for more information.

Many companies offer higher education funding through employee development programs. Businesses pay for qualified employees to return to school, paying for some or all of their education. Many employers fund undergraduate and graduate education.

Many companies finance employees' education to develop their workforce. Others offer higher education funding as an incentive to attract and retain workers. Tuition assistance programs vary widely, so employees should ask their company about possible education funding.

Foster and adopted children may qualify for tuition assistance programs resulting in free or greatly reduced college tuition. Most U.S states offer tuition waivers, scholarships, or grants for foster care students meeting eligibility requirements. Other states offer education vouchers that may not cover total tuition costs.

Foster and adopted students should check state eligibility requirements to see if they qualify for tuition assistance programs.

Indigenous American students can receive generous tuition assistance through many sources, including the Bureau of Indian Education. Many U.S. states offer tuition assistance for Indigenous residents with membership in a federally recognized tribe.

Many colleges offer tuition waivers and discounts specifically for Indigenous students. Major public colleges, such as the University of Minnesota, offer substantial tuition remission for Indigenous students who complete the FAFSA and meet household income requirements.

Colleges with Free Tuition

This section highlights several well-known colleges with free tuition programs. These schools maintain different education philosophies, providing free tuition in varying ways. Some schools require military service, while others only require applicants to meet certain income requirements.

These colleges also vary in their admission requirements. Top schools such as Harvard and MIT typically offer free tuition only to students with outstanding academic records. However, many community colleges offer tuition assistance with less consideration given to grades.

How to Get Reduced or Cheap College Tuition

Other institutions besides just tuition free online colleges let students save on education. Savvy students find many ways to reduce their overall tuition rate at all types of schools. This list highlights three possible ways to lower higher education costs.

With flat-rate tuition, students pay a set rate and take as few or as many classes as they want. Most colleges maintain a credit minimum and maximum for flat-rate tuition. Dedicated students use flat-rate programs to take a heavier course load and save on tuition.

Flat-rate tuition programs often work best for students not working full time. Degree-seekers should take on a reasonable class load so as not to overwhelm themselves.

Learners can explore other options to earn affordable college credit outside of tuition free online colleges. Many community colleges offer highly affordable online classes, making it easy for students to start their education. After completing low-division courses at a community college, many students transfer to a four-year school.

Online learning platforms like StraighterLine and edX offer online classes that may transfer for college credit. However, students should research transfer requirements, as not all schools accept credits from these platforms.

For degree-seekers without significant financial aid, public in-state schools usually offer the lowest tuition rates. Many states offer reciprocity and exchange programs. These programs let residents of neighboring states attend public colleges at the same affordable in-state tuition rate.

Tuition exchange programs help learners increase their higher education options. Through state reciprocity programs, students often attend out-of-state schools without significantly increasing their education costs.

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From the Expert

Jason White, Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice

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 the 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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