Sadly, 68% of college graduates in 2015 completed their education with over $30,000 in student loan debt, and that amount has increased by almost 10% in the past two years. More and more students are starting their lives with the weight of their education bearing down on their shoulders.
The American government has fought back against student loan debt by providing something called a Pell Grant to low-income families, which is a grant that is free and clear of any strings and that will not have to be paid back. However, 88% of students who receive a Pell Grant in 2012 still had loans with a balance of over $30,000.
College tuition is getting more expensive, which puts a lot of stress on prospective students, but these ten schools are eliminating the stress for some students. There are many reputable — and even prestigious — schools that offer tuition-free education to students, but the ten we’ve listed below have free tuition that doesn’t require a work program so they are truly free, and they all have online degree programs. They are listed in alphabetical order, and the requirements for each school to provide a student free tuition are listed.
We have ordered the schools on this list based purely on the alphabetical ordering of their names. Each of these schools has varying requirements for students to receive a tuition-free education through them and the schools all offer varying amounts and types of online degree programs, so a traditional ranking system would not be entirely fair.
10 Tuition-Free Schools with Online Degree Programs
Barclay College is a private Christian college located in Haviland, Kansas and was founded in the year 1917. Scott T. Clark, an evangelist, and teacher founded what was known as the Kansas Central Bible Training School at a Quaker high school called Haviland Friends Academy. The school underwent several name changes as it developed, becoming Friends Bible College in 1930 after a two-year junior college course was added five years prior. In 1968, the school was more geared towards becoming a four-year institution, because of this decision, the high school program was shut down. Their efforts were fully recognized when they received accreditation from the Association for Biblical Higher Education in 1975. In 1990, the final title of Barclay College was adopted to honor Robert Barclay, who was the first Quaker theologian.
Barclay College is a Christian college, so it is mostly known for their ministry degrees, but other professional fields are offered there. Some of them include business management and psychology. The school’s mission is to prepare students in a Bible-centered environment for effective Christian life, service, and leadership. They are so committed to ensuring students can receive this education that the school offers free tuition to all students. They have provided a program since 2007 where every accepted student receives a full-tuition scholarship of $14,000 that covers everything, including room and board, as well as other fees.
Brown University is a private Ivy League Research University located in Providence, Rhode Island. The school was founded in 1764, and at that time was the first and only school to allow students to attend regardless of their religion. Brown–as the school is often called–is one of the nine Colonial Colleges and is the seventh oldest institution of higher education in the country. The school has many impressive accolades, such as being the pioneer of the first Ivy League Engineering Program in 1847 and being one of the earlier schools to confer doctoral degrees by adding Master’s and Doctoral programs 40 years later. The university is divided into six different schools: The College; the Graduate School; Alpert Medical School; the School of Engineering; the School of Public Health and; the School of Professional Studies.
Through these six schools, 88 different undergraduate degrees are available in 20 various areas of study comprised of 56 different majors. Uniquely, students also have to ability to create their own concentrations, to ensure that they’re getting a tailored education that suits their needs. Brown is so committed to providing students with a quality education, that they have been offering students free tuition since 2008. As long as a family has a yearly income of less than $60,000, the student will not have to pay the nearly $50,000 per year to attend the University. Additionally, if a family makes less than $100,000, significant grants are available to students versus traditional student loans.
Columbia University is a private Ivy League Research University, which is often called simply Columbia. However, it is officially known of Columbia University in the City of New York. The school was founded in 1754, making it the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and also one of the nine Colonial Colleges. Located in Upper Manhattan, it is home to the oldest college in New York. The school underwent several name changes before becoming what we know it to be today. Throughout the years 1754 to 1784, it was a royal university called King’s College that was established by George II of Great Britain; it became Columbia College after the Revolutionary War and was no longer a royal university, but a private one. In 1787, a charter placed the school under a board of trustees that renamed it Columbia University in 1896 following a transfer to its current campus in Morningside Heights.
Columbia is one of the most exclusive and prestigious universities in the country, and in the Ivy League, with a very rich history. It was the first school in America to grant a Doctor of Medicine degree and was the birthplace of inventions such as the laser and the FM radio. Columbia University is also where the first uranium atom was split on North American territory. It is made up of twenty individual schools. These are the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; the School of the Arts; the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; Barnard College; Columbia Business School; College of Physicians and Surgeons; Columbia College; College of Dental Medicine; Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science; School of General Studies; School of International and Public Affairs; the Jewish Theological Seminary; the Columbia Journalism School; the Columbia Law School; the School of Nursing; the School of Professional Studies; the Mailman School of Public Health; the School of Social Work; the Teachers College; and the Union Theological Seminary. Columbia University offers full-ride scholarships to every student whose family makes less than $60,000 annually.
Cornell University is a private Ivy League, sea-grant, space-grant, and private land-grant doctoral research university. Cornell, as the school is commonly referred, was founded in the year 1865 in Ithaca New York. It is the only private land-grant university in the state of New York, one of only three in the country. The school has consistently been a non-sectarian and co-educational institute since it was established, never discriminating on the basis of race or religion. This is incredibly unique for its time, as was the original mission of the school to provide all students with an education in any field. Adherent to their mission, the school presently has a massive and diverse student body of over 20,000 students from all 50 states, and over 120 countries around the world.
Cornell University is divided into 14 distinct schools that function almost independently, with each having their own academic programs and admission standards. The schools include the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning; the College of Arts and Sciences; the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management; the College of Engineering; the Graduate School; the School of Hotel Administration; the College of Human Ecology; the School of Industrial and Labor Relations; the Cornell Law School; the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences; the Weill Cornell Medical College; Cornell Tech; and the College of Veterinary Medicine. In addition to this, the university also operates eCornell, their online counterpart that provides students with various certificates and professional development courses entirely online. To qualify for the free tuition offered by Cornell, the student’s family has to have a total income of less than $60,000 per year.
Duke University is a private research university that is based in Durham North Carolina. Though Duke now has a campus including 254 buildings spanning 8,691 acres, it began in one building in the year 1838, a private subscription school called Brown’s Schoolhouse. Methodists and Quakers came together as the Union Institute Society to organize the school, which would become the Union Institute Academy in 1841. The school had some other name changes throughout time. It became the Normal College in 1851, and then Trinity College in 1859. In the year 1892, the school relocated to its current East Campus in Durham thanks to two Methodists, Julian S. Carr who donated land, and Washington Duke who gave $85,000. Years later, in 1924, Washington Duke’s son James B. Duke set up a trust amounting to $40 million to distribute to different hospitals, orphanages, and colleges. One recipient of this money was Trinity College, which became Duke University after William Preston Few, the president at the time, convinced James that the name would be great thanks for his generosity as well as a meaningful memorial to his late father who helped establish the school.
Duke’s nearly 15,000 enrolled students can choose from 12 different schools that make up Duke University in which to enroll. These schools include the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences; the School of Law; the Graduate School; Duke Divinity School; the School of Medicine; the School of Nursing; the Nicholas School of the Environment; the Edmund T. Pratt Jr. School of Engineering; the Fuqua School of Business; the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School; the Sanford School of Public Policy; and Duke Kunshan University. Through these, there are hundreds of degree options at the Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral levels, spanning many different areas of study. Duke is committed to educating all students, and they accept students based on a “need-blind” policy, allowing students in based on merit alone, regardless of their ability to afford the tuition. Because of this, Duke has promised to meet 100% of the demonstrated need for their students. To receive a full-tuition scholarship, the student’s family must make less than $60,000 annually. However, there are additional aid programs to help students bridge the gap even if they’re ineligible for the full-tuition coverage.
Harvard University is arguably the most prestigious university in the world. It is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was originally established in 1636. It is the first of nine Colonial Colleges and the first ever institution of higher learning in the country. It was originally named Harvard College, after the university’s first ever beneficiary. It operated under that title until 1639 when it settled on its current title.
Harvard University has many impressive accolades because of its rich and extensive history. It is home to the largest university library system in the United States, the Harvard Library, which is comprised of 80 different libraries containing an excess of 18 million different volumes. It also has the largest university endowment and has educated eight former U.S. Presidents, more than 60 living billionaires, and several different heads of state, as well as hundreds of varying types of scholars.
Harvard, as the school is commonly called, is comprised of 11 different schools. These include the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Harvard College; Harvard Medical School; Harvard Law School; Harvard Divinity School; Harvard School of Dental Medicine; Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; Harvard Business School; Harvard Extension School; Harvard Graduate School of Design; Harvard Graduate School of Education; Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health; John F. Kennedy School of Government; and John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. While Harvard is highly residential, a portion of their 21,000 enrolled students is distance learners. Harvard offers hundreds of online courses for- and non-credit for all of their students. To be eligible for the free tuition at Harvard University, a student’s family has to have an annual income of less than $65,000. Additionally, students whose families earn between $65,000 and $150,000 will pay between 0% and 10% of their full tuition costs.
Texas A&M University is a public, coeducational land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant research university based in College Station, Texas. It is the only university in Texas to have all three (land, sea, and space) designations, reflecting a range of research projects funded by NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Science Foundation. It was founded in 1876 as the first institute of higher education in Texas; at the time is was called the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas despite having no agricultural courses. Instead, the focus of their academics was in language, literature, classical studies, and applied mathematics. The name was updated to Texas A&M University in the 1960’s following the decision to make the institution coeducational, to generally expand its educational programs, and to desegregate. Today, the university offers degrees in more than 150 areas of study to a student body of more than 60,000 (the largest in Texas). The student body includes people from all 50 US states and 124 foreign countries.
There are ten distinct schools that make up the University, nicknamed TAMU or just Texas A&M. These schools include the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; the College of Architecture; the Bush School of Government and Public Service; the Mays Business School; the College of Education and Human Development; the Dwight Look College of Engineering; the College of Geosciences; the Health Science Center; the School of Law; the College of Liberal Arts; the College of Science; and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Also, Texas A&M is one of six American public universities with a full-time Corps of Cadets that study traditionally alongside civilian students. Only about 1/5th of all students live on campus at the University, the rest live elsewhere in the area, are distance-learners, or are in the military. To be eligible for the free tuition program at the University–which covers everything except for fees– students’ families must have an income of less than $60,000 annually.
The University of the People is an exclusively online university headquartered in Pasadena, California. It is the only non-profit, tuition-free online accredited American university. Since it was founded in 2009, it has enrolled more than 9,000 students from more than 194 countries across the globe.
The president and founder of University of the People, Shai Reshef, is an educational entrepreneur who established the university with the vision “to open the gates to higher education and to give an opportunity to all qualified students who don’t have it, regardless of financial, geographical, political, cultural or personal constraints.”
University of the People has been widely successful, garnering partnerships with NYU, Yale, UC Berkeley, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and more. The university is approved by the California Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education and is fully accredited by the United States Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
University of the People offers undergraduate degrees in business administration, computer science, and health science, as well as one graduate degree program which confers students with a Master of Business Administration upon completion.
The tuition is entirely free for all students that meet only three requirements, which are: a high school diploma or equivalent, proficiency in the English language, and 18 years of age or older. There is a registration fee of $60 per student, as well as a $100 fee for each end-of-course exam a student is required to take in the undergraduate programs, and a $200 fee for each exam in the MBA program. The total cost of an Associate’s degree is $2000 (20 exams), a Bachelor’s degree $4000 (40 exams), and for the MBA the total cost is $2460 (12 exams). There are also scholarships and grants available for eligible students who cannot afford the nominal processing fees of the university.
Vanderbilt University is a private research university in Nashville Tennessee. The Central University of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South was in the works in 1872, but financially was unable to get off the ground until significant donations were made. After the Civil War, a railroad mogul named Cornelius Vanderbilt donated $1 million to the school in hopes that helping with higher education would aid in putting the region back together after the war. The school was named in his honor and was finally established in 1873.
Vanderbilt is classified as having very high research activity, ranking consistently among the top 20 in the US. It has the largest academic facility dedicated to studying the effect of radiation. In addition to this, their chemical biology department has announced that they are on track to breeding a blue rose, they also have extensive research departments on coffee, and the card game of Bridge. The more modern form of the game was developed by Harold Stirling Vanderbilt, great-grandson to Cornelius Vanderbilt.
The university has a total enrollment of nearly 13,000 students that attend several different schools that comprise the university. These schools are the College of Arts & Science; the Law School; the School of Medicine; the Divinity School; the Peabody College of Education and Human Development; the Graduate School; the School of Engineering; the School of Nursing; the Blair School of Music; and the Owen Graduate School of Management. The Vanderbilt University Medical Center houses the School of Medicine, and the School of Nursing, and is the largest employer in the area and second largest in the state. It is also home to the only Level One Trauma Center in the Middle Tennessee Area. Committed to providing all students with a high quality and rigorous education regardless of their financial status, Vanderbilt University does meet 100% of the demonstrated financial needs of their students. To qualify for entirely free tuition, the family of the student must have an annual income of less than $60,000.
Yale University is a private Ivy League research university that was founded in 1701, making it the third oldest institution of its kind and also one of the nine Colonial Colleges. It is located in New Haven, Connecticut. It was established by the clergy in Saybrook Colony to educate their ministers. The curriculum was initially limited to theology and sacred languages. The campus was moved to New Haven in 1716 and was renamed to Yale College as to commemorate a substantial contribution from the president of the British East India Company, whose name was Elihu Yale. Around the 1760’s, the school’s academic offerings expanded to include science and humanities. Decades later as the 19th century dawned, the university expanded once again to begin providing graduate and other professional instruction. The name was changed to Yale University in the year 1887 to reflect these expansions. The university now enrolls over 12,000 students and has a campus that spans more than 1,000 acres.
Yale University is the alma mater of 5 former U.S. Presidents, and 19 Supreme Court Justices. More interesting trivia about Yale is that their mascot Handsome Dan is believed to be the first in the United States. Yale is made up of many different academic divisions, which are Yale College; the School of Medicine; the Divinity School; the Law School; the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; the Sheffield Scientific School; the School of Fine Arts; the School of Music; the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; the School of Public Health; the School of Architecture; the School of Nursing; the School of Drama; and the School of Management. Through each of these divisions, Yale University is committed to meeting 100% of the demonstrated financial need for all students. In light of this, a family making less than $65,000 per year will not be expected to pay anything for the child’s tuition. In addition to this, although the annual expected parent contribution is $10,000 or more, over 10% of all students are supposed to pay nothing for the education they are receiving.