Attending a college without paying any tuition sounds too good to be true, but it is not.
There are a handful of colleges that are tuition-free, but as you can guess, they are extremely competitive to get into. If you would like to send your child to a tuition-free school, the early high school years are not too early to begin to prepare to apply for these schools.
Specialty Tuition-Free Colleges
Several tuition-free colleges offer very specific areas of focus such as the City University of New York’s Teacher Academy which trains students to teach math and science in New York City schools and Cooper Union in New York which seeks to train students in engineering, art and architecture.
Other free-tuition schools with unique specialties include the music conservatory Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, and Webb Institute in New York focusing on naval architecture and marine engineering.
Liberal Arts Tuition-Free Colleges
There are a handful of tuition-free liberal arts schools, many of which serve underprivileged areas and give preference to students from those areas, though others can also apply.
Alice Lloyd College. At this Kentucky college, all students receive free tuition, and in return they work 10 to 20 hours per week. Application requirements include scoring at least 17 on the ACT or 430 on the verbal portion of the SAT and 400 on the math portion. In 2007, 43% of applicants were accepted.
Berea College. Another college in Kentucky, Berea also offers free tuition and a generous scholarship program to assist with housing. All students are required to work at least 10 hours a week, but upperclassmen can apply to work 15 to 20 hours a week. Applicants are expected to earn 20 to 30 on the ACT and above 1400 on the SAT. Most students come from the Appalachian area, and 28% of applicants were accepted.
College of the Ozarks. Based in Missouri, this Presbyterian based college offers free tuition, and in return, all students work 15 hours a week and an additional two 40 hour weeks per year. This school frowns on debt, so they also offer scholarships to assist with room and board, if necessary. Students should be in the top half of their high school graduating class, have at least a 20 on the ACT and a 950 on the SAT; in particular they are looking for high grades in English classes. Admission preference is to individuals from the Ozark region. In 2007, 12% of applicants were accepted.
Deep Springs College. An extremely small, all male, liberal arts, two year college in the desert of California, Deep Springs requires all students to work 20 hours a week in return for free tuition. Only 11 to 15 students per year are accepted, and minimum applicant requirements include SAT verbal scores in the upper 700s and math scores around 700. In any given year, only 6 to 15% of applicants are accepted. Deep Springs College boasts impressive transfer stats for their students. In the past 10 years, 16% have been accepted to Harvard, 13% to the University of Chicago, 7% to Yale and 7% to Brown.
There are a variety of strategies to cut the cost of attending college such as attending a community college first, pursuing alternative college housing arrangements and making smart money moves as a freshman.
However, outside of receiving a scholarship for full tuition, the next best strategy may just be to attend a tuition-free college. These colleges are few and far between and extremely competitive, so it is best for students to begin to prepare for these colleges in their early high school years.