Paying for college can be a scary endeavor for anyone—especially for those with fewer financial resources available to them. There are different reasons someone might not continue on to college, but all too often, it comes down to income. I know when I was choosing my university, I focused on one factor more than anything else—the price. I knew that my parents didn’t have a large income, and I didn’t have much in savings, so I resolved that my school needed both lower tuition and higher scholarship rates. Tuition was the primary factor that determined which schools I applied to.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Incredibly, there are more and more opportunities for education opening up to students of any income. There have been many new policies created throughout the US that are allowing more students to further their education. My attention was caught by news posts like this, which announces that the University of Michigan approved its Go Blue Guarantee to give free tuition to in-state students with family incomes less than $65,000. I felt encouraged by this step forward in helping students unable to afford college on their own.

These type of changes are happening everywhere, and they definitely provide new options for those who may not have even considered college before. Finding out about the chances for low-income college isn’t hard; it just takes a little digging.

States and Cities with Free Tuition

Lucky for you, I’ve done a lot of the digging already. For ease of access, I’ve created a list of many cities and states now offering free tuition to qualifying students. A good majority of these are recent developments, which may mean that there will be similar changes in coming years. There certainly seems to be a greater push for affordable education throughout the entire country. Here’s what I found:

The Boston Bridge Program

Available to those living in Boston, this program, announced in May, gives free tuition for a four-year program as long as the qualifying students enroll in one of three Boston community colleges before transferring to a state university.

Tennessee Promise Program

This program has recently been expanded to give free community college tuition to all adults who have been a Tennessee resident for at least one year and who keep a GPA of 2.0 or higher.

New York’s Excelsior Scholarship

Specifically for New Yorkers, this state will be starting its new free-tuition program this fall. It can be used by any in-state applicant making $125,000 or less, with the requirement that those students remain in New York for the same amount of years after graduation as they used the program’s benefits.

Oregon Promise Program

In 2016, Oregon began the Oregon Promise program for free tuition to its community colleges, which can benefit Oregon high school graduates. The University of Oregon also has a similar program (Pathway Oregon) for in-state students with lower income.

Rhode Island Promise Program

This is a new program moving forward to give free tuition to in-state Rhode Island students who attend the Community College of Rhode Island. The governor also has hopes to expand the program in further years to other schools.

San Francisco Tuition-Free College

Also as a recent development that starts this fall, San Francisco will be providing tuition—plus $500 for books—to any community college student that has lived in San Francisco for at least one year.


Colleges with Free Tuition

While all of the state free-tuition deals are specific to in-state students, there are also colleges that offer free tuition to students from inside and outside their state. Here is a list of individual schools that offer full rides, though they do have certain requirements. This list combines two resources, which give more details: US News and Affordable Schools.

  1. Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky, which offers free tuition to qualifying students in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia
  2. Barclay College in Kansas, which offers free tuition for students who live on campus
  3. Berea College in Kentucky, which requires students to work on campus for free tuition
  4. College of the Ozarks in Missouri, another school that has its students work on campus for free tuition
  5. Cornell University in New York, providing full scholarships to students from families with less than $60,000
  6. Curtis Institute of Music in Pennsylvania, which requires an audition for admission and provides free tuition
  7. Deep Springs College in California, a small all-male school with supplementary ranch work in exchange for free expenses
  8. Macaulay Honors College in New York, a liberal arts college that gives free tuition to New York residents of one year and doesn’t require them to stay in NY after graduation
  9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which provides free tuition for students from families that make $75,000 or less
  10. Texas A&M University, with the Aggie Assurance program that offers free tuition to families who make less than $60,000
  11. Webb Institute in New York, an engineering school giving free tuition to all US residents
  12. Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades in Pennsylvania, an all-male trade school that gives free tuition and expenses, with the requirement that students live on campus
  13. United States Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, Military, and Naval Academies, which all offer free tuition to students who pledge to serve in the military after graduation.


There are also many other schools that offer substantial scholarships based on financial need, including Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. It’s worth it to look into the possibilities that are out there. Because no matter the number next to that dollar sign, there are many opportunities available for those of any income.

So remember, even if your dream school looks a little too pricey, there are options to help pay for it! If none of these schools appeal to you, there are other resources such as grants and scholarships that can help you make it at any college.

For more information on scholarships, CollegeVine has you covered.

Christina Crosland

Christina Crosland

Christina Crosland is currently a senior studying Interdisciplinary Humanities at Brigham Young University. Since the day she was born, Christina has called the West her home, and she is proud to say that she graduated from a little high school in Idaho. And while her home lies in one place, her heart lies in the great unknown. Traveling has always been her interest and reading of fantastical journeys her passion.
Christina Crosland