General Education

6 High-Quality Colleges That are Tuition-Free

6 High-Quality Colleges That are Tuition-Free
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Adam D'Arpino September 10, 2014

You don’t have to go into debt to go into academia. If you can manage to get past the rigorous board of admissions of these six universities, you can enjoy a free college education.

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The worst part of getting a college education is the part that comes afterwards: When you have to pay for it for the next five to forty years of your life.

Did you know that throughout the country and the world, there are higher education destinations that don’t charge a single dollar of tuition money?

Here are a few of those magical places.

1. Berea College

Not only is Kentucky’s Berea College the first southern college to be coeducational and racially integrated (since 1855) but every admitted student receives a full academic scholarship, and occasionally additional money for room and board. There are a few stipulations: All students must be eligible for FAFSA financial assistance, about three fourths of all students are from the Appalachian south, and there are only about 1,500 undergraduates attending at any given time. Students also have to work at least ten hours a week on campus, but that’s still an extraordinarily small price to pay for a full undergraduate experience, and ultimately, a four-year degree.

2. Curtis Institute of Music

Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music is a huge breeding ground for orchestral and classical music talent, with some of the most talented high school musicians in the country vying for a spot in the student body. Curtis is extremely competitive and demanding, and only takes in around seven percent of talented applicants, for a total student body of just around 160. If you find a way in, you’re rewarded handsomely, with a full-tuition scholarship valued between $35,000 and $50,000. However it’s safe to assume that Curtis students spend more time working diligently in practice rooms than mastering the latest iteration of Mario Kart.

3. Deep Springs College

The strange, remote, and wildly nontraditional learning experience at Deep Springs College in Deep Springs, CA, is also tuition free. The two-year, all-male school is located on a small ranch in the California desert, roughly 25 miles from the nearest town. Isolation is a huge part of attending Deep Springs; access to the outside world is intentionally limited, and self-sufficiency is at a premium. Only about 26 students attend the school at any given time, all of whom are required to work at least 20 hours a week at manual labor-intensive jobs related to farming and ranching. As the Deep Springs College website puts it: “Deep Springs is a school of 26, which means 3.8% of our student body is sitting at the keyboard typing this."

4. United States Military Academy at West Point

Another school that involves more extreme diligence than most, the United States Military Academy at West Point is an undergraduate institution where students come in extraordinarily smart and focused, and leave as lieutenants. West Point students receive free tuition, room, and board, but its not without a few stipulations. The academy is extremely competitive, with only around nine percent of applicants accepted yearly. Students have to pay for all issued items including uniforms. You have to be okay with waking up at the crack of dawn, undergoing rigorous basic training, and serving at least five years of active duty in the United States Army. Other than that, it’s a breeze.

5. University of Helsinki

Finland’s University of Helsinki is just one of many Scandinavian examples, considering many of the region’s colleges schools don’t charge a dime for tuition, even if you’re an international student. The oldest (established 1940) and largest (with around 35,000 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students) university in Finland, Helsinki has high academic standards and selectivity. The university accepts only 17 percent of applicants. Tuition at Helsinki is fully funded through Finland’s Ministry of Education, but as Finland’s education website warns: “remember … you should be prepared to fully cover your everyday living costs." Essentially, Finland’s government will not buy you a toaster and flip flops. But if you asked really nicely, there’s an outside chance they might give you a little leeway.

6. Webb Institute

Long Island’s ultra-small, ultra-selective Webb Institute is a specialized school for undergraduates pursuing degrees in naval architecture and marine engineering. Essentially, these are students specializing in ship and information systems building. The school is small and selective, admitting under 40 percent of applicants and only taking on a total of 80 undergraduates each year. Tuition is free, although students are required to complete several months of on-the-job internship training. Students also adhere to a strict honor code that occasionally involves taking home and timing their own tests. So liars, cheaters, and other unsavory sorts need not apply.


About Deep Springs. (n.d.). Deep Springs College. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from

Admissions - Careers. (n.d.). United States Military Academy. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from

FAQ on scholarships. (n.d.). Study in Finland. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from

Ferrette, C. (2013, October 21). Webb Institute still tuition-free after 125 years. Newsday. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from

Financial Assistance. (n.d.). Curtis Institute of Music. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from

Hyvärinen, K. (n.d.). University of Helsinki Finland. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from

Statistics. (n.d.). Deep Springs College. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from

Tuition and Other Costs. (n.d.). Office of Admissions. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from


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