Getting an education is crucial. College, trade school, or whatever path you take can offer mind opening experiences. They also come with mind-blowing expenses and, for most, student loans.
It’s not exactly a dirty little secret that folks who go to college usually end up with severe debt that trails them around decades after they’ve graduated. College is expensive. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, “seven in 10 seniors (69%) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2014 had student loan debt, with an average of $28,950 per borrower.”
Just because you want an education doesn’t mean you have to dive into Uncle Sam’s wallet. There are a few colleges around the country that have swung open the doors and are free of charge or least way cheaper than the norm. Some of these schools have specific requirements, but if you meet said conditions, you could wind up with a free education and zero student loans creeping over your shoulder like a cartoon ghoul.
NEW YORK, THE FREE COLLEGE CITY
New York recently rolled out a plan for free college, but given that over a million students apply for student loans yearly, it’s going to take a while for them to sort out how many they can approve. Either way, it’s a step in the right direction given that students shouldn’t be crippled with debt just because they want a good education and career.
FREE COLLEGE ACROSS THE COUNTRY
So where are these mythical colleges? What do they want as an exchange for a quality education? Some of these colleges might be in your backyard, all it takes is a little internet sleuthing to see what they’re looking for regarding admissions.
ALICE LLOYD COLLEGE
Alice Lloyd is ranked #40 of the best regional colleges. Its free tuition program is mainly for underserved students in the greater Appalachian area. It has also got some impressive SAT scores:
- Critical reading: 460/590
- Math: 420/520
- Writing: 440/480
Students at Alice Lloyd pay it forward and work at 160 hours a semester in the community or around the school. Dorms are not free, but $1,900 annually is affordable. The average student can walk away from Alice Lloyd with under $7K in student loan debt.
A tiny Christian school in Kansas, Barclay College has a curriculum that’s religion-centered and offers free tuition to students who live on campus and study areas such as:
- Pastoral Ministry
- Youth Ministry
- Sports and Recreational Leadership
- Christian Elementary Education
- Business Administration
Well, it’s not all free. If accepted to Barclay on a scholarship, they’ll award you $11K, but you’re on the hook for room and board, and all of the other little fees.
Another Kentucky school, Berea is a small liberal arts college that offers 28 different degrees. With a student body of around 1,500, the college prides itself a 1:1 student/faculty ratio.
The majority of students hail from Appalachia and the Princeton Review named it one of the best colleges in the Southeast. Berea College is continually high ranked as one of the country’s best liberal arts colleges.
Students accepted into Berea College are awarded a four-year tuition scholarship. Students are expected to work at least 10 hours a week around campus. The scholarship offered can work in concert with other grants or scholarships any many students leave Berea debt free.
COLLEGE OF THE OZARKS
Another private liberal arts college, College of the Ozarks is based in Missouri and has an enrollment of 1,500. Ranked #10 in the 2014 U.S. News & World Report edition of the Best Colleges in Regional Colleges (Midwest), Forbes also ranked College of the Ozarks #21 in the Midwest.
The school is tuition-free for full-time students, but to gain acceptance to College of the Ozarks, students will need to show proof of financial hardships. Accepted students are required to work around the campus and keep a 40-hour work week during breaks.
CURTIS INSTITUTE OF MUSIC
Music fans rejoice, there’s a school out there to help you live the dream of earning a degree. Located in Philadelphia, Curtis Institute of Music offers degrees including a:
- Bachelor of Music
- Master of Music in Opera
- Professional Studies Certificate in Opera
Curtis Institute of Music is right on par with lauded names like Berkeley or NYU and is considering one of the finest conservatories in the world. Getting into Curtis is tough, though. Only 165 students attend at a time, and there’s just a 4% acceptance rate. The school’s trained instrumentalists hold the top 25 chairs in the major US orchestras.
An even more delicate point to put on it would be:
- Students have won Grammy’s, Tony Awards, and Oscars
- Students have performed at the Metropolitan Opera
You have to be amazing at your instrument. They’ll cover the costs to teach you, but you’ll need to test to get accepted.
DEEP SPRINGS COLLEGE
A genuinely unique education experience, Deep Springs College is a private two year school in California that has less than 30 students. Some of Deep Springs students go on to earn a graduate degree or doctorate.
Because the school is an “alternative institution” it holds its principles as the governing body of the college. Admissions vary from 6%-15%, and the average SAT math, and the verbal score is 700.
Students are expected to help on the school’s ranch or alfalfa farm at least 20 hours a week.
THE UNITED STATES ARMED SERVICES
Most of the branches of the US military offers an education package if you attend their academy. The Army, Navy, Merchant Marines, Coast Guard, Air Force provide a four-year degree so long as you agree to four years of service.
WILLIAMSON FREE SCHOOL OF MECHANICAL TRADES
Located in Pennsylvania, the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades is state school rooted in its Christian faith but offers students programs in:
- Turf management
- Machine tools
- Power plant technology
- Graduating students get an associate’s degree or a certificate in carpentry or masonry.
There are a few stipulations you should know about:
- Students must be unmarried
- Students must be under 20
- Students must live on campus
- Students must go to chapel
- Students must follow the dress code
The awarded scholarship covers room and board, tuition, and books.
NOT SO FREE, BUT LITTLE-KNOWN HELP FROM THE TOP-TIER
Some of the most prestigious schools in the country have programs to help students who don’t have the luxury of a blank checkbook for their educations. Schools like Duke, Harvard, Princeton, and MIT all have programs based on a sliding scale of affordability for students. While some programs are a little more progressive than others, do the research and see where you income line falls. Worst case, you may fall in line for a significant discount.
Hopefully, some of these schools are what you’re looking for. Everyone should have a right to a financially responsible education. It’s unfair there are only a handful of schools offering a free education, but more and more programs and universities are popping up yearly. If we missed a school leave us a comment or shoot us a tweet. We’re always on the hunt for new schools trying to break free of higher ed’s financial chains.