Eight Amazing Colleges Where Students Don’t Pay Tuition

Turn on any major news station, and you will hear endless discussions about the rising cost of student loans and tuition at America’s top colleges.

All this conversation is important. After all, top private universities are now costing families upwards of $6,000 a month, every month, for four years straight!

So what if I told you that you could get a premiere education at a great school…

For free?

Believe it or not, there are actually quite a few schools that don’t charge tuition.

These programs are characterized by small student bodies, favorable student:teacher ratios, and, of course, low acceptance rates.

For this list, we are only including four-year Bachelor’s degree-granting non-military institutions.

Six of the schools are premiere liberal arts colleges…

And two are actually colleges dedicated entirely to music.

So what programs are tuition-free for admission?

Here is the list:

Alice Lloyd College (Pippa Passes, KY)

Public domain photo by Nyttend via Wikimedia Commons

First on the list is Alice Lloyd College, an institution of approximately 600 students based in Kentucky.

So why is Alice Lloyd free? Like three other schools on this list, it is considered a “work” college.

A work college is a school where work is an integral part of the educational experience. Students are employed by the school as office assistants, tutors, craft makers, and even as maintenance.

Such an arrangement not only makes it possible for students to study at Alice Lloyd for free, but also provides students a solid work ethic helping them succeed post-graduation.

Although the school is tuition-free, students must be residents of Central Appalachia to receive the financial benefits.

Barclay College (Haviland, KS)

Barclay College is a free tuition college best described as a Quaker school. Most known for awarding ministry degrees, the entire student population at Barclay is just 200 students (approximately).

With an acceptance rate of over 60%, Barclay is perhaps the most admissions-friendly free tuition college in the entire nation.

Majors at the school include Youth Ministry, Pastoral Ministry, and Worship Arts. These Ministry majors are what most students choose to study at Barclay. However, the school does offer a degree in Business Administration as well.

Spiritual growth is the core of the Barclay experience.

Berea College (Berea, KY)

Berea is one of the most well-endowed small schools in the country; with a student body of just 1,600 undergraduates, the school’s endowment is an astonishing $1.2 billion. This makes Berea among the highest endowment-per-student schools in the country.

It is the excellent funding of Berea, combined with its “work college” requirement –  in which all students of the school must have a job on campus to graduate – that allow it to be completely tuition-free.

Berea has a notable history. It was the first school in the entire Southern United States to be integrated racially and coeducational.

It is also one of the top 50 most best liberal arts colleges in the country, according to US News.  Washington Monthly ranked it #4 in 2019.

College of the Ozarks (Point Lookout, MO)

KTrimble, AP College of the Ozarks, CC BY-SA 3.0

Like Berea and Alice Lloyd, College of the Ozarks is a work school – students of the program take jobs at the school.

Ozarks takes tremendous pride in their work program, describing themselves as the “Hard Work U.”

College of the Ozarks is the most selective non-music institution on this list. Admitting less than 15% of students, this program is among the premiere Christian liberal arts institutions in the nation.

The environment at Ozarks can be best described as conservative, appealing to students deeply rooted in faith and spirituality.

Because of its free tuition and prestigious education, US News ranks College of the Ozarks the #1 best value school in the Regional Midwest.

Colburn School (Los Angeles, CA)

Dave Parker, ColburnSchoolFront, CC BY 3.0

Colburn is widely considered among the most magnificent conservatories in the world.

Located in Los Angeles, the school has a strong relationship with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, perhaps the country’s best orchestra alongside the Big Five.

In fact, many of the school’s own faculty perform in the Los Angeles, providing students a unique outlet to study with some of the world’s great interpreters of classical music.

The school does not take composers or vocalists, only classical instrumentalists.

Don’t count on getting accepted unless you are among the very best at what you do; the acceptance rate is approximately 5%.

Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia, PA)

Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

Ask the average person what the most prestigious music school is, and they will say Juilliard.

Ask the average musician what the most prestigious music school is, and they will say Curtis.

Few institutions come with a more rarefied history than Curtis, a legendary conservatory of less than 200 students offering completely free tuition to all admitted students.

Perhaps you have heard of their alumni; they include conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, pianist Lang Lang, violinist Hilary Hahn, and composer Samuel Barber, best known for his American classic Adagio for Strings, which was performed at JFK’s funeral.

Alongside Colburn, it is the only entirely free-tuition independent music school in the country. However, Yale University does have an attached school of music which is also free to attend.

Webb Institute (Glen Cove, NY)

Students at Webb are affectionately called “Webbies,” and at any given time there are only about 100 or so of them at the entire institution.

Webb’s emphasis is in engineering, particularly naval architecture and marine engineering. Its niche specialization, combined with its very low student body, give it an acceptance rate of less than 25%.

Based in Long Island, Webb is just 25 miles from New York City, providing students access to America’s cultural epicenter.

Webb is currently ranked the 7th best ROI private school in the country, according to Payscale.com.

Because of proximity and academic focus on marine engineering, Webb has a close relationship with the nearby United States Merchant Marine Academy.

Warren Wilson College (Swannanoa, NC)

All students at Warren Wilson complete three major tasks; on-campus study, a job on campus, and community service.

Because Warren Wilson requires students to work for the school for graduation, the school is listed within the consortium of nine “work colleges.”

Affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, Warren Wilson is among the most beautiful campuses in the country. Inside the campus is a 275 acre farm as well as 625 acres of managed forest.

All students work approximately 240 hours per semester, which comes out to about 15 hours a week. Community service is integral to the school experience, with most students working in, according to Wikipedia, Food Security, Youth & Education, and three other majors areas.

So that is the list of free-tuition Bachelor’s degree granting institutions in the US. As you can see, many of them come with interesting caveats, such as a work or musicianship requirement.

Some schools additionally grant half-tuition scholarships to all students. These schools include Olin, a top-tier engineering school based in Needham, MA, as well as Cooper Union, based in New York City.