Given the steep cost of college, you might be surprised to learn that several colleges and universities in the United States offer students free tuition, making a debt-free education a real possibility.
Some tuition-free colleges give every student free tuition while others award free tuition based on financial need. For students willing to put in the work, a good number of colleges award free tuition—and sometimes free room and board—in exchange for work during college or a work commitment after college.
Below, you’ll find a list of purely tuition-free colleges and a list of tuition-free colleges that require some form of work exchange.
7 Purely Tuition-Free Colleges & Universities
Our no-strings list of tuition-free colleges includes schools that don’t require a work commitment. You might still need to meet specific eligibility criteria to receive that free tuition, though.
Arizona State University – Free For Select Arizona Residents
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Student Population: 44,461
Qualifying Arizona high school graduates can receive free tuition for up to four years from Arizona State University through its College Attainment Grant Program (CAGP). To qualify, students must also come from a low-income family and attend Arizona State University in person. Students must also maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA and remain eligible for federal student aid to continue to receive the grant.
Barclay College – Free Tuition for all On-Campus Students
Location: Haviland, Kansas
Student Population: 213
Barclay College, a small private Christian college, gives all on-campus students a $17,000 full-tuition scholarship. Students are responsible for paying $15,470 in general fees, technology fees, room, and board to receive the scholarship. Outside scholarships, federal and state grants, savings, and loans can cover non-tuition costs.
City College of San Francisco – Only for Select San Francisco Residents
City College of San Francisco is an urban community college offering more than 250 degrees and certificates. The college’s Free City program grants free tuition to all qualifying San Francisco residents. Students must be a California resident for one year and one day and a San Francisco resident to qualify. They must also apply for financial aid and receive a California College Promise Grant (CCPG) fee waiver.
Curtis Institute of Music – Free Tuition for All Students
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Since 1928, Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music has been awarding merit-based, full-tuition scholarships to all students. They call it an “all-scholarship” policy. All students must audition for enrollment and pay annual fees of around $1,750. Students without healthcare insurance must also pay a health insurance fee.
Students who wish to live on campus must still pay room and board fees. Financial aid to help cover these costs is available to students expressing financial need.
Stanford University – Free Tuition for Low-Income Students
Location: Stanford, California
Student Population: 6,994
Stanford University, one of the top colleges in the United States, offers free tuition to students coming from families who make less than $150,000 per year and have typical assets. Students from families earning less than $65,000 per year with typical assets receive free tuition, room, and board. Stanford doesn’t expect students to borrow student loans to cover their educational costs.
Webb Institute – Free Tuition for All Students
Location: Glen Cove, New York
Student Population: 101
Another niche college, Webb Institute is a small engineering school that grants all students full-tuition scholarships. Students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents to receive the scholarship. At Webb, all students complete the same program of study—a Dual Bachelor of Science Degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering.
Students can apply for federal financial aid and outside scholarships to help pay for room, board, and other expenses.
Williamson College of the Trades – Free Tuition, Room & Board for All Students
Location: Media, Pennsylvania
Student Population: 250
All students who attend this faith-based, all-male trades college receive free tuition, room, and board. Williamson College of the Trades gives special admissions consideration to students who come from families expressing financial need. Men attending Williamson can earn an associate degree in one of six mechanical trades: masonry, carpentry, horticulture, machine, paint, and power plant.
11 Colleges with Free Tuition that You’ll Have to Work For
Alice Lloyd College – Must Be from Central Appalachia & Work
Location: Pippa Passes, Kentucky
Student Population: 574
Alice Lloyd College’s Appalachian Leaders College Scholarship grants free tuition to qualified students residing in the college’s service area in Central Appalachia. The service area includes 108 counties located in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Eligible students pay $0 out-of-pocket for tuition for up to 10 semesters.
All students who attend Alice Lloyd College must participate in the Student Work Program, working a minimum of 10 hours per week and 160 hours per semester on-campus or off-campus. On-campus, students can work in one of 14 departments, including the dining hall, resident advisors, admissions team, building maintenance, and daycare.
The Apprentice School – Must Work Full-Time
Location: Newport News, Virginia
Student Population: 725
The Apprentice School is an accredited apprenticeship vocational school run by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company. Instead of paying tuition, all accepted students are paid to take classes and work in their full-time apprenticeship. The school offers apprenticeships in 19 skilled trades, including heavy metal fabricator, machinist, electrician, pipefitter, and HVAC.
Pay starts at $18.87 per hour for students in their first term and goes up to $29.73 by the time you’re finished with the program. Students also receive typical employment benefits like overtime pay, paid vacations, paid holidays, medical plans, and life insurance.
The Apprentice School is not a degree-granting institution, but advanced students can earn an associate degree through the nearby Thomas Nelson Community College.
Berea College – Must Work on Campus
Location: Berea, Kentucky
Student Population: 1,688
All accepted students at Berea College receive a Tuition Promise Scholarship, which covers 100% of tuition costs. It’s equivalent to $176,000+ over four years. Students who attend Berea must participate in the college’s Labor Program and work at least 10 hours per week on campus. Hourly wages vary between $5.60 to $8.75 per hour. Money earned through the Labor Program can help cover room, board, and books.
College of the Ozarks – Must Work on Campus
Location: Point Lookout, Missouri
Student Population: 872
College of the Ozarks grants a tuition waiver to all full-time students. In exchange, full-time students must work 15 hours per week on campus and work two 40-hour weeks during the school year. All students must file the FAFSA. Any funds awarded can be used to pay for this faith-based college’s health/technology/services fee, room, board, and other non-tuition expenses.
Deep Springs College – Must Work on Cattle Ranch & Farm
Location: Point Lookout, Missouri
Student Population: 26 to 30
Deep Springs College gives all admitted students free tuition, room, and board. This unique two-year liberal arts institution isn’t your typical college. Students must commit to working 20 to 25 hours on the campus’ cattle ranch and alfalfa farm. Classes are taught in a seminar style on topics the students help choose. The student body also gives input on hiring decisions and reviews faculty performance. After completing the two-year program, students often transfer to a four-year college or university to finish their B.A. or B.S. degree.
United States Air Force Academy – Must Serve in Air Force or Space Force
Location: USAF Academy, Colorado
Student Population: 4,304
Attending the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) comes at no cost. Students, called cadets, do not need to pay for tuition, room, or board. In exchange, all graduates must serve in the U.S. Air Force or the U.S. Space Force following graduation. The length of your commitment depends on your career path.
The USAFA offers 32 relevant academic majors, including Space Operations, Military & Strategic Studies, Philosophy, Data Science, History, Legal Studies, and Aeronautical Engineering.
United States Coast Guard Academy – Must Serve in Coast Guard for 5 Years
Location: New London, Connecticut
Student Population: 1,069
Students, also called cadets, actually get paid to attend the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA). The government covers the full cost of tuition, room, and board and pays cadets a salary. In exchange, students must complete five years of postgraduate service as a Coast Guard Officer.
Available majors include civil engineering, electrical engineering, government, naval architecture and marine engineering, marine and environmental sciences, and management. Attending the Coast Guard Academy doesn’t require a Congressional nomination.
United States Merchant Marine Academy – Must Fulfill Service Obligation
Location: Kings Point, New York
Student Population: 996
The United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) is a federal service academy offering free tuition, room, board, uniforms, and textbooks in exchange for a service commitment after graduation. Students, called midshipmen, are responsible for covering Midshipman Fees, which total around $1,095 per year and cover wash-and-fold laundry services, tailor and seamstress services, and barber and hairdresser services.