Free College Tuition: The Truth about Free Tuition

Would you like Free College Tuition?

Certain Colleges and Universities are already participating in such programs where you can go to college for free!

Did you know that free college tuition already exists? I know, the notion seems very “pie-in-the-sky” right? However, it is actually happening in a number of states.

Nearly 20 states have some kind of program that covers the cost of tuition at two-year and/or four-year public colleges after a student exhausts grants, financial aid, and any other financial resources. There are eligibility requirements in each program that vary from state to state.

The Case for Free College Tuition

As a companion piece to these posts, I also host the Tuition Drop Podcast. I conducted two separate episodes where I made the case for free tuition and then when I made the case against it.

It’s hard not to speak on politics with this issue as it’s something that is frequently brought up in debates. However, I wanted to take a more individualistic approach and really see what may be the case for each.  

The Case For Free

  1. Opportunity (Not Right) – So in many cases for or even in the debates you can hear that it’s a right for someone to go to college. I think there is a fine line as to what that means and there may be no true answer. Just a bunch of people mouthing off with their opinions. I don’t know if I had the right to my higher education as so much as I had the opportunity and that’s where it may get lost. So my first reason and the case FOR free college tuition is that everyone should have the same opportunity to apply in an effort to attend college.
  • Lowering Debt = A better head start – This one to me is super important especially for young people. So if college graduates are getting out with less debt, then that means they are able to get a head start in life financially (or at least have the opportunity to). This means they can hopefully build up in a traditional sense. Moderate paying job (while single) meet someone, fall in love get married, buy an apartment, save for house, move into house, have children, save money etc. Now the wildcard is the job and its stability and potential for a high income. I guess I often fantasize that it would be the case for those younger people out there. 

Many reports out there say that it’s working in other countries and that is something I cannot commit to without doing more research. Most counties mentioned are completely different than we are and have a fraction of the amount of people there. I just do not feel that it is a fair comparison.

For me personally, it’s all about giving that young individual the opportunity to apply to a college and have a chance at getting accepted without the hindrance of a financial situation. Then giving that same person a head start to where they are not spending years upon years paying off this beast of a loan that they borrowed. It sets the future with the ability to save and therefore give their eventual kids that same ability. To me it’s golden and to me as a father of two children, that’s all I’d want.

The Case against Free College Tuition

As I was writing the case AGAINST free college tuition, I noticed right away that the list was longer for the case against. Does that mean there is a clear cut answer? Not at all. More reasons doesn’t always equate to high quality reasons however, this is something to note.

The Case Against

  1. Dilutes the achievement of getting a college degree – How I have always felt is that the accepted into a particular college meant you were able to separate yourself from the other applicants. Then then getting of a degree allows you to separate yourself from those apply to those who not only did not get a degree but then applying for the same types of jobs. So then when you receive the degree and accept the job you feel accomplished. So then if more people are able to get a college degree then your one in an even bigger crowd.
  • Motivation once in – If tuition is free then how motivated will the students be to study hard. Young people can be super resilient when they have a lot on the line and it also allows them to work for their goals. Sometimes the adversity (even on the financial side) may be a good thing.
  • Degree will hold less value – Goes hand in hand with my first reason but more competition will devalue the degree
  • Saturated Admissions – Colleges may have to adopt waiting lists due to potential high enrollment
  • Lead to poor degree choice – Higher amount of people attending results in a higher probability of those choosing either the wrong degree or ones without a good return on investment. So those low paying majors that are part of the student loam debt issue will even have more people obtaining them
  • Employees at public universities – This one hits home to me because if tuition at the public universities is free then how are the employees (which are some people I know) are going to get paid. Will there be a need for them? In theory yes, because there are more students but how is this going to work and why isn’t it being address? You have some many people working at these colleges just to survive or support their families.
  • Private Colleges? – So private education is just as good as public and it should be a choice by the individual as to how they want their education presented to them. Not only are there many great private colleges out there but again you have many employees who work there to support their families. How will this affect them?
  • Vocation and Trade Schools – If our country is short in these areas and they pay well and you can have a great job, why deter people away from them? The focus again will be on more degrees that do not pay. Example Occupational Therapy. My youngest daughter once went to an OT and it helped her tremendously with that she was struggling with. It’s a high growth career and something not offered at the four year universities.
  • Not really free – Tuition may be free, but will room, board, supplies, and fees increase?
  1. Student loans default can increase – Some students will take out a student loan, some of those students may not be serious, they will drop out and this can cause a default on the loan. I’m not sure how that helps a person. 
  1. Taxes will increase – Self-explanatory right?

I really do not know what the right answer is or the right path. I state these cases for and against just so we can get a feel for things and see what are we up against in the world of higher education.

States that offer Free College Tuition

With tuition and fees rising at an insane rate (26 % for private schools and 35% for public schools) over the past decade, you can see why Free College Tuition is discussed.

These program promise college students two years of free tuition as participating state community college or other associate-degree grant programs.

So I researched the states and it appears that 11 states already have a program in place to offer some sort of free tuition.

The 11 States

  • Oregon
  • Nevada
  • Arkansas
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • Tennessee
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Delaware
  • Kentucky
  • Indiana

9 other states are working on legislation to do so and I expect more to follow.

Ivy League Schools

You may think I’m crazy but, most Ivy League Schools provide free tuition and other assistance for students from families with an income below a certain threshold. They are also a little more generous with the offering of grants. Some have a “no-loan” policy so they are really pushing the use of grants as opposed to student loans.

Free Tuition Based on Family Income

Here are the Ivy League and non-Ivy League schools that won’t require a financial contribution from families below a certain income:

  • Brown University
  • Columbia University
  • Cornell University
  • Duke University
  • Harvard University
  • MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Princeton University
  • Stanford University
  • Texas A&M University
  • University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Yale University

Now I’d like to point out that ever those these prestigious schools are offering this, their selection process is going to be that much more fierce and competitive. They won’t just take anyone which is probably why they are offering these programs.

The Best Tuition Free Universities  

The word “free” does not really mean free in this case as not paying for tuition doesn’t equate to everything being entirely free.

Although it can save you a bunch of money you will still be required to pay for certain expenses such as fees, housing, meal plans, textbooks, and other supplies. Each tuition free college will have its own requirements with regards to additional requirements that may need to be fulfilled.

Alice Lloyd College

Pippa Passes Kentucky

Alice Lloyd College is a private liberal arts college located in Kentucky. Their programs are geared more towards advance studies in medicine, law, and more. They are Christian affiliated so those values are maintained within the college’s atmosphere.

Student can receive free tuition from select Appalachian counties. Students will be required to work at least 160 hours per semester in an on-campus job or in a local community Student Work Program.

The cost of living in a dormitory is about $6,240 annually.

Barclay College

Haviland, Kansas

Another Christian private college that focuses a rigorous academic setting with a biblical foundation. With a 67% admissions rate, Barclay College offers full-tuition via scholarships. Student are then required to live on campus with a cost of room and board around $8,400.

Berea College

Berea, Kentucky

The second school from Kentucky on this list, Berea offers degree programs in 28 fields. The majority of the students attending are from the Appalachia region of the U.S. All students are required to live on campus, unless they are above the age of 23.

The college does not charge tuition however, room and board is $6,472 per year. Every student is also required to work at least 10 hours per week in campus-approved jobs.

College of the Ozarks

Point Lookout, Missouri

Seems to be a trend here with the private, Christian schools right? Full-time students that attend the College of the Ozarks, will receive free college tuition. Ninety percent of the applicants will be required to show and display their financial need in order to be accepted.

Student will then be required to word 15 hours a week on-campus and two 40-hour work weeks during breaks. The school also provides a summer work program in order to cover the $6,800 cost of room and board.

Copper Union

New York, New York

“Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today” oh sorry.

Copper Union located in New York consists of three schools. The school of art, the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, and the Albert Nerken School of Engineering. They are known for their highly regards engineering programs.

Every student that is registered in an undergraduate and graduate program receives a free tuition scholarships. Undergraduate and graduate tuition is nearly $22,000 per semester. Each student enrolled in a degree program pays a $925 fee every semester. Students living in the school’s residence pay a housing fee of $15,910 per academic year.

Curtis Institute of Music

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today” oh sorry.

The Curtis Institute of Music provides training and education to exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers in the performing arts. They offer diplomas, bachelors, and master degrees.

The school has a 4% acceptance rate making it one of the most selective in the country. An applicant must audition in person and those accepted will receive a full-tuition scholarship. Financial assistance for living expenses is based on your need.

Deep Springs College

Big Pine, California

Deep Springs College is located on a cattle-ranch in Inyo County, California (no really it is). The college provides a unique alternative to the first two years of a traditional four-year education program. Over two-thirds of graduates of Deep Springs College have continued on to earn a graduate degree at other institutions.

The admissions process will have a strong emphasis on academic ability, leadership and potential, and a person’s desire for responsibility of the Depp Springs Community.

Each accepted student will receive a full-scholarships valued at over $50,000 a year!!! Students will then work a minimum of 20 hours per week on a the ranch or farm.

Macaulay Honors College at City University of New York (CUNY)

New York, New York

“I want to be a part of it, New York, New York” opps sorry again.

Macaulay Honors College is part of New York’s CUNY system. They provide liberal arts educational with the combination of traditional and innovative teaching and learning.

Students will need to complete 10 hours of community service in each of their three years. Those that go to Macaulay Honors College will receive a full, undergraduate, tuition-free scholarships. They will also receive a $7,500 Opportunities Fund gran for global research, as well as a laptop.

Student also received housing support and are required to meet CUNY residency requirements for in-state tuition in order to receive full-tuition scholarships.

Webb Institute

Glen Cove, New York

Okay no more Frank Sinatra Lyrics…lol

Webb Institute is located on Long Island, New York. They provide a single undergraduate degree option in naval architecture and marine engineering. It’s the only school in the nation devoted to ship-design engineering.

The school centers on engineering disciplines such as marine engineering, mechanical engineering, ship design and systems engineers, electrical engineering, and civil engineering.

During the winter student work in the maritime industry and receive a salary. Every student at Webb Institute will receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship. Students live on campus, on an estate with a private beach….sign me up!!!!!

Student costs are limited to room and board, books, and laptops. The cost of room and board is estimated to be around $14,400.

Final Thoughts

The schools I have mentioned on the best of list may not be the “sexy” school. In fact, you probably haven’t heard of those college I just mentioned above. Some may consider that a bad thing, but I actually think it’s a good thing in this context.

Now these schools tend to cater to a very specific skill set as you can see. If may not be everyone’s cup of tea nor those career paths may be what someone is look for. However, these colleges may just be the beginning to more jumping on board.

Maybe the answer is not having all colleges offering free tuition but maybe just to let it be known that the options are out there and they exist if one wanted to pursue them.

The Ivy League schools are going to be selective and based on their history they can be. That’s not to say that one cannot get into those schools but it’s important to remember your path and it’s important to know that the combination of the degree and you being the individual that you are will result in your success.

Most students that I speak to are unaware of these options and that along with wanting to help students/families not be tied down by extreme tuition costs is why I do this. If more students can know that these exists then they will know that there is more than just the traditional routes. The traditional routes may seem like the right thing to do while in high school but these outside-of-the-box ways to alleviate college costs I personally feel are the way to go. This is something that I will promise to get bringing to everyone as we start getting away from ways that not set us up for the most success after a student graduates from college.  

I hope everyone gain some value out of this information. Please leave a comment and let me know if you have any questions. I always love to continue the conversation and I would love to hear from everyone about your thoughts on free colleges.

Let’s do this together and make sure that we have all the knowledge available before making a decision about our future.

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