We all know that figuring out how to pay tuition can be one of the most stressful parts of the college experience. There are scholarships, grants, savings accounts, and loans to consider. Some students work while in school to help cover the cost of attending. Ultimately, students and parents have to work together to figure out the best solution for their finances. However, even as tuitions continue to rise across the country, you may not have heard that there are some schools that don’t charge tuition at all. These smaller colleges find ways to offer undergraduate degrees without charging students to attend.
For instance, at the College of the Ozarks in Missouri, full-time students work part-time during the school year in exchange for free tuition. While the students still have to pay for health and activity fees, they are eligible for Pell Grants and other financial aid to help cover these expenses as well. Berea College in Kentucky has a similar program. Berea’s No Tuition Promise guarantees that no admitted student pays tuition.Instead, the school covers tuition and students work 10-15 hours a week to pay for room and board. Berea students also receive laptop computers that they can use during their four years in school and keep after graduation.
It isn’t just small liberal arts colleges that offer free tuition programs. The Curtis Institute of Music in Pennsylvania offers full-tuition scholarships to all admitted undergraduate and graduate students. This is especially significant because getting a degree in the arts can be an especially costly undertaking. For comparison, tuition at the Rhode Island School of Design is about $50,000 a year, not including housing and other fees. By contrast, students at the Curtis Institute receive scholarships estimated to be worth $42,000 a year for undergraduates.
Of course, some larger universities are also recognizing the burden that rising tuition puts on students and families. A handful of the nation’s top universities have begun to offer generous tuition assistance to students whose families make less than a specified amount of money. Perhaps the most generous program of this kind is Princeton University’s need-blind admission program. Students who apply to Princeton are considered for admission regardless of their families’ income, and are guaranteed 100% of their financial need be met by the university. At Rice University, students whose families make less than $130,000 a year receive guaranteed free tuition, and those who make less than $65,000 have their room and board covered as well.
All of this is good news for families and students who are saving and planning for a college education. As colleges and universities increase their assistance for low- and middle-income students, college becomes a more realistic and less burdensome opportunity for talented students.