It is hard to deny that many college-bound students are looking to acquire tuition-free college education or enjoy heavily reduced college tuition and fees.
While myriads of high-school graduates gravitate toward scholarships, grants and other avenues that may guarantee free college education, it is crystal clear that many college-ready students cannot afford the yearly tuition charged by top U.S. colleges.
Generally, higher institutions charge relatively expensive tuition and (other) fees. Colleges are no exception as US’ public out-of-state four-year colleges charge an averagely of $27,560 for tuition and fees for the 2023/2024 academic year. According to verifiable data, some of the reasons why colleges are relatively expensive include inadequate state support, increased student amenity packages, increment in the expense of administrators, and an increase in demand.
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An Overview of What It Costs to Acquire College Education
We may not be able to figure out the exact amount your college education will cost simply because tuition and fees vary from one college or university to another. But the College Board provided that for the 2021/22 academic year, private not-for-profit four-year universities charge average tuition and fees to the tune of $38,070 while public out-of-state four-year colleges charge $27,560.
A student’s college cost will also vary depending on the areas of expenditure that the student is responsible for. Such areas may include fees and tuition, transportation, personal expenses, equipment and supplies, textbooks, and room and board.
With respect to the reality that standard college education is relatively expensive for many college-ready students, we have compiled a list of the top 10 ways you can go to college for free.
What Are the Top 10 Ways You Can Acquire College Education for Free
Apply for a Relevant Grant or Scholarship
Grants and scholarships are some of the aids that enable you to have an experience of a tuition-free college education. As a high school student hoping to achieve higher education through tuition-free college, you should contact your college financial aid unit or high school guidance counsellor for information on the grants or scholarships that you’re eligible for.
While scholarships may be awarded to applicants/individuals who meet a host of criteria, grants are commonly intended to address the financial needs of the beneficiaries. Depending on their providers, scholarships may be awarded on the basis of various criteria including religion, race, gender, (evidence of) financial need, academic excellence, athletic achievement, military affiliation, ethnicity and physical disabilities.
It’s highly recommended that you begin your search for scholarships and/or grants as early as possible. This is because there are lots of scholarships and grants you can get on a “first-come, first-served” basis. The early applicants of such scholarships/grants are very likely to be awarded more money compared to the late applicants.
To save yourself the stress of browsing the web endlessly for independent scholarships, you can leverage such sites as Fastweb and Scholarships.com for easy access to relevant information.
Volunteer to Work at Your Desired College
There are U.S. colleges where full-time employees are allowed the privilege of tuition-free education. In some cases, the colleges may offer these employees discounted tuition. The management-stipulated policies for this kind of privilege may vary from one college to another.
Nevertheless, somebody whose father or mother works at a college can seize this advantage to seek full or partial tuition payment from the college. For the fact that many colleges provide their employees with full or partial tuition payment, you may want to consider volunteering at your preferred college.
The admissions unit/office of the college should be ready to provide you with detailed information about the associated policies and how the entire process works.
Commit to Serving Your Country
One of the prettiest ways to secure the opportunity of a free college education is to commit yourself to serving your country. If you pledge to serve in the military after your graduation, programs like Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and AmeriCorps will likely prove handy to you. AmeriCorps, for instance, dishes out academic prizes to students who have pledged to serve their country. With AmeriCorps, you’ll be entitled to a full education grant which is determined based on the highest Pell Grant value for the given year.
Through the ROTC program, students who have pledged to offer post-graduation military service can earn free tuition for their education in any of numerous U.S. colleges and institutions. This is because ROTC supports many institutions and 1,700+ US colleges. For committing yourself to post-graduation military service, ROTC lets you enjoy paid college education along with the guarantee of a profession after college graduation.
Also for committing yourself to post-college military service, you’ll be entitled to free education at any of the Air Force, the United States Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, Military (West Point), and Naval schools.
Get Your Company or Employer to Reimburse Your Tuition
Tuition reimbursement is one way some organizations, companies or employers help employees ease the financial burden in the course of education. As a college-bound student without sufficient funds to sustain you through college, consider seeking your employer’s support in the form of tuition reimbursement. Prettily, some high-profile organizations –including Google, Hulu and Chegg –do provide their student employees with tuition reimbursement.
Even if your employers maintain that they cannot cover your entire expenditure throughout college, chances are that they’ll want to repay your tuition fees up to a given level.
Have Your Tuition Waived
Tuition waivers are available to select categories of students and according to the founder of College Planning ABC, Manuel Fabriquer, outstanding students, as well as current/former military students, may be eligible for tuition waivers.
Also at select U.S. schools, Native American students are allowed the privilege of waivers. Though depending on the school, there can be various criteria for granting waivers to students. If not considered for college tuition waivers on the basis of origin as a Native American, a student may be eligible for such waivers for having got “the correct exam scores”.
If you’d like to pin your hopes on tuition waivers, it may be helpful that you visit the financial aid office of your preferred college. Try to find out the conditions for which the college offers tuition waivers.
Go to Community College Offering Tuition-free Programs
Some states –including New York, Oregon, Washington and California –have adopted systems very much like the tuition-free community college program in Tennessee known as The Tennessee Promise Program.
While tuition-free education is now available at various U.S. community colleges, it’s worth noting that many states require you to have graduated as a full-time student from one of their high schools before you can qualify for their tuition-free program. Also noteworthy is that other than tuition, you may not be funded for other expenses such as board, room, and costs of textbooks and materials.
Obtain a Scholarship Specialized in High-Demand Courses
There are colleges that offer scholarships to individuals aspiring for such topical areas as nursing, math, social work, teaching and science. If you’re aspiring for teaching, for instance, some initiatives –like the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program and Teach for America –may be willing to award you an annual TEACH Grant to the tune of $4,000. But for you to get this, you must be ready to pledge that after your graduation, you’ll commit yourself to a four-year period of teaching.
If you really have a great knack for teaching, this option of obtaining scholarships specialized for in-demand fields of study could be your best bet for earning free college education.
Consider Tuition-free Online Programs
Tuition-free online programs –such as the ones offered by Kentucky’s Berea College and Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music –can save you the need to shell out hard-earned funds for your college education.
Another example of a tuition-free online program is the Starbucks-sponsored complete tuition-free education for Starbuck employees. Courtesy of its partnership with Arizona State University (ASU), Starbucks has been able to furnish its employees with tuition-free online programs.
If you don’t find the idea of an online (degree) program unbefitting, some of the U.S. institutions you can look to for tuition-free programs are Berea College in Kentucky and Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Consider a School Where You Earn for Studying a School-specified Subject
For college-bound students with a flair for specified subjects such as music, this idea may earn them the privilege to go to college for free. How these (idea) works is that you’ll opt to focus your studies on a single school-specified subject.
If you’re really inclined to music, for instance, the Curtis Institute of Music might be the best college for you to get paid while focusing on the course specified for you by the college. There are other schools, such as the Webb Institute, where students can have their entire tuition costs covered for focusing on a school-specified subject.
This idea (of getting compensated for specializing in a school-specified subject) is great and should turn out favorable especially if you’re inclined to the specified subject. If this is the path you want to tread in earning free college education for yourself, we advise that you opt for a college with a subject that aligns with your desired career path. This way, you’re unlikely to end up studying a course that doesn’t fit into your professional aspiration.
Choose a Work College
Basically, a work college is an institution offering four-year programs in liberal arts along with generous work experience and beneficial educational possibilities. The work college is, by and large, an institution where students combine occupations with education.
At work colleges, the entire student population is employed thereby allowing for students’ significant exposure to a learn-and-work situation. Although specifics vary depending on their college program, students at work colleges necessarily engage in on-campus or off-campus occupations.
For occupation-inclined college aspirants, attending a work college might just be the befitting way to acquire free college education or enjoy discounted tuition all through their four-year programs.
Rather than guarantee you a tuition-free college education, some of the options discussed will, at best, only pave the way for a significant reduction in your college tuition.
Whichever way, we strongly believe that since college education is worthwhile, you should be ready to welcome as many as possible opportunities that will ease your financial life in college.