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Colleges That Offer Free Tuition for Low-Income Students

students walk across a college campus

Education is one of the most powerful drivers of personal and societal growth, yet managing the cost of tuition can be challenging for many. 

The good news is that an increasing number of colleges and universities are implementing innovative strategies to make higher education more affordable and accessible, particularly for low-income students. 

One way these schools are working to reduce barriers to education is by offering free tuition for low-income students. In this article, we share everything you need to know about these colleges and their programs offering qualified students free tuition. 

Free college tuition programs

The following colleges and universities offer free tuition opportunities to qualifying students. Our list is alphabetically ordered by college or university name, so please note that if you’re looking for a particular school. 

Also, this information was taken from each school’s website, so the details provided here will possibly change with time. Be sure to visit a school’s website to verify the most current information if you are interested in one of these programs. 

Allegheny College 

Through Allegheny’s Commitment to Access Program (CAP), Allegheny College will cover 100% of tuition for Pennsylvania and Ohio students from families earning $50,000 or less.

Arkansas State University

A-State Promise Plus gives free tuition to many Arkansans whose households have an income under 70k.

Note: The A-State Promise Plus covers any remaining tuition costs after Pell Grants, Scholarships, and financial aid for up to 15 hours per semester.

Brown University 

Brown fully covers tuition for families earning $125,000 or less with typical assets. In addition, students of families making less than $60,000 a year with typical assets will receive scholarships that cover all expenses- tuition, room, board, and books- and additional scholarships to help support other expenses.

Colgate University

Students with annual family income below $80,000 attend tuition-free, while students with annual family incomes between $80,000 and $175,000 pay a percentage of annual income toward tuition.

Colorado State University- Pueblo

 Colorado Promise Free Tuition Eligibility-

  • Must be a Colorado resident
  • Must have a total family income of $70,000 or less based on the FAFSA
  • Must be an in-state, first-time college student or transfer student with a gross family income of up to $70,000

The Colorado Promise pays for a maximum of 15 credits per semester, and one must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher in future years.

Columbia University 

Students from families with annual incomes less than $150,000 (and typical assets) can attend Columbia tuition-free.

Concordia College

Starting in Fall 2024, the new Concordia Promise covers full tuition for newly admitted students from across the country whose family has an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) under $90,000.

Cornell University

Students with low-income status have little or no expected parent contribution as part of their financial aid package, are Pell Grant recipients, or have had their academic experience limited due to socioeconomic status. Note that they often intersect, first-generation and low-income are not synonymous.

For the 2024–25 academic year, most families with total annual income up to $75,000 and typical assets will receive aid offers, including grant aid and work-study only—no student loans.  A typical aid offer will include:

  • $0 expected student and parent contributions (maximizes grant/scholarship aid)
  • $5,000 work-study award* (and abundant work-study job opportunities)
  • $0 student loans*

Dartmouth College 

The Dartmouth Scholarship covers full tuition for students from families with total incomes of $125,000 or less who possess typical assets.

Florida State University Panama City 

The FSU Promise Scholarship provides free tuition and fees to students who are residents of NW Florida and whose combined family and student income is less than $60,000 or are Pell-eligible.

Geneva College

The Geneva Tuition Promise ensures that all eligible Pennsylvania traditional undergraduate students from families earning less than $70,000 annually will pay no tuition at Geneva College starting with the incoming class in the fall of 2024.

Harvard University

You'll pay nothing if your family’s income is less than $85,000. Families earning between $85,000 and $150,000, the expected contribution is between zero and ten percent of your annual income.

Haverford College 

Students with family income below $60,000 per year will not have a loan expectation included in their financial aid package; loan expectations for incomes above this threshold remain low, ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 yearly.

Lafayette College 

Starting with new applicants in the 2024-25 academic year, families with total family incomes of up to $200,000 and typical assets for families in this income group will meet their financial needs through grants and work-study without any loans. This is an increase over the $150,000 income threshold initiated for the incoming classes of fall 2022 and fall 2023.

Minnesota State  

North Star Promise Scholarship Program provides a pathway to free tuition and fees for eligible Minnesota residents at any of the 26 state colleges and seven state universities of Minnesota State

To be eligible for the North Star Promise Scholarship:

  • Be a Minnesota resident
  • Have a family-adjusted gross income (AGI) as reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Minnesota Dream Act Application below $80,000.

Princeton University 

Undergraduates from most families that earn up to $100,000 annually will not have to pay for tuition or room and board at the University.

Texas A&M University

 AGGIE ASSURANCE PROGRAM: Aggie Assurance helps students with a family income of $60,000 or less by ensuring that eligible students have enough scholarships and grants to pay for tuition

Texas State University 

Bobcat Promise. This program guarantees free tuition and mandatory fees for 15 credit hours per semester to new entering freshmen with a family-adjusted gross income that does not exceed $50,000. 

In addition, the program will cover the cost of the required US1100 course. The amount awarded under this program equals the tuition and fees reflected in the Texas resident attendance cost; any award or combination of awards cannot exceed one's demonstrated need.

The College of New Jersey

The Golden State Guarantee is a financial aid program that will provide up to four semesters of free or reduced tuition and mandatory fees at a four-year public institution of higher education in New Jersey. To be eligible, students must be New Jersey residents enrolled full-time in their third or fourth years of study.

Students are those whose family’s adjusted gross income is $65,001-$80,001 annually. These students may be eligible for free tuition and mandatory fees after financial aid is applied.

The State University of New York 

The Excelsior Scholarship provides tuition awards to eligible students attending New York State’s public colleges and universities (SUNY and CUNY). This scholarship, in combination with other student financial aid problems, allows students to attend a SUNY college tuition-free.

To meet the eligibility requirements, an applicant must

  • Have a combined federal adjusted gross income of $125,000
  • Be a resident of NYS and have resided in NYS for 12 continuous months prior to the beginning of the term
  • Additional requirements here

Tufts University 

Students with an annual family income of less than $60,000 typically receive a financial aid package with no student loans.

University of California- System

 The nine schools of the University of California System—Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles (UCLA), Merced, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz—waive tuition and fees for state residents with total family incomes less than $80,000 a year.

 UC's Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan will ensure that you will not have to pay UC’s systemwide tuition and fees out of your own pocket if you are a California resident whose total family income is less than $80,000 a year and you qualify for financial aid — and that's just for starters.

University of Central Arkansas

The UCA Commitment is a groundbreaking, debt-free pathway for tuition and fees for incoming Arkansas freshmen with an annual household income of $100,000 or less

University of Chicago 

UChicago will guarantee free tuition for families with incomes under $125,000* per year (with typical assets). Families earning less than $60,000* per year (with typical assets) will have tuition, fees, and standard room and meals covered by financial aid.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

 If you’re an Illinois resident whose family makes $67,100 or less and has less than $50,000 in family assets, you may be eligible for the Illinois Commitment financial aid package, which covers the cost of tuition and campus fees. The program cannot cover food, housing, or selected other expenses.

University of Michigan

University of Michigan- Ann Arbor - free tuition for students with families with incomes $75,000 and under and assets below $75,000.

University of Michigan-Dearborn 

  • Free tuition to first-time students-
    • fulltime in-state students with incoming 3.5 GPA
    •  Family income of $65,000 or less and assets below $50,000
    •  Eligible for up to eight semesters of free tuition
  •   Free tuition for transfer students
    •  Full-time, in-state students with incoming 3.5 GPA
    •  Family income of $65,000 or less and assets below $50,000

University of Michigan-Flint 

  • Full-time, high-achieving undergraduate in-state students who are admitted to and attend UM-Flint will automatically qualify for the award if they have a family income of $65,000 or less and assets below $50,000.
  • In addition to meeting the income and asset provisions, incoming first-time college students need a high school GPA of at least 3.5 to qualify for the Go Blue Guarantee and be eligible for up to eight semesters of free tuition.
  • Incoming transfer students need a transfer GPA of at least 3.5 and will be eligible for up to four semesters of free tuition.
  • Returning students at UM-Flint who meet the basic criteria outlined in the first bullet and have not exceeded the semester limit, as noted, will be eligible starting this fall and must have a GPA of at least 3.0.

Typical tuition support offered to families in Michigan beyond the go blue guarantee

  •  Total family income
    • Under 65k
      •  $0 after scholarships and grants
    •        $65-95K
      • $3,500 average tuition per year after scholarships and grants

University of Montana 

With the Grizzly Promise, students coming from a family with an income of $50,000 or less the University of Montana will cover your tuition and fees.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln 

With the Nebraska Promise, students who meet academic qualifications and have a family income of $65,000 or less (Adjusted Gross Income/AGI) or are Pell Grant-eligible can attend tuition-free.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC-Chapel Hill will cover tuition and mandatory fees for in-state undergraduates whose family income is less than $80,000, starting in the fall of 2024.

University of Oklahoma 

A student who is enrolled in OU’s Crimson Commitment will not have to pay tuition and, combining outside and OU resources, average student fees for four years. 

To qualify for Crimson Commitment as an incoming freshman, one must-

  • Qualify fully for Oklahoma’s promise. You must be:
    • An Oklahoma resident
    • Enrolled in the program during your eighth, ninth, or tenth year in an Oklahoma school
    • A student whose parents earn $55,000 or less per year

University of Pennsylvania 

Students with family incomes less than $75,000 (and typical assets) receive financial aid packages that cover tuition, fees, room, and board.

University of Richmond

For students who are Virginia residents with a total annual parental income of $60,000 or less, the University provides grant-based financial aid equal to full-time tuition, housing, and the Spider unlimited meal plan.

University of Texas Dallas

Eligible students with a family income of $65,000 or less will have their full tuition covered through a combination of the Comet Promise funding, scholarships, grants, and other tuition exemption programs.

University of Texas El Paso 

The Paydirt Promise program covers tuition and mandatory fees for eligible students with a family-adjusted gross income of $80,000 or less.

Note: The Paydirt Promise is available to first-time freshmen, returning, and transfer students. The Paydirt Promise is not available to students who are receiving an exemption or waiver for tuition.

University of Tennessee 

This innovative scholarship will cover a student’s last dollar amount of tuition and mandatory fees after other financial aid is applied (such as Pell grants, HOPE Scholarship, or other institutional scholarships) to students who qualify for HOPE and whose household income is under $60,000 a year.

University of Virginia

UVA will cover the full cost of tuition and fees for in-state undergraduate students with a family income of less than $100,000. UVA will also cover the full cost of tuition, fees, room and board for Virginians from families with incomes of less than $50,000. 

University of Vermont 

Under the UVM Promise, admitted undergraduate students starting in the fall 2024 semester or later, whose parents' adjusted gross income (AGI) is $75,000 or less with typical assets will receive Federal, state, and institutional grants and scholarships to cover their tuition and comprehensive fee, as well as a waiver for the University acceptance fees.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Bucky’s Tuition Promise is a commitment to Wisconsin resident students. The program guarantees scholarships and grants to pay for tuition and segregated fees for students whose household adjusted gross income (AGI) is $65,000 or less. Incoming first-year students will receive eight (8) consecutive semesters (4 years) of free tuition and segregated fees, and new transfer students will receive four (4) semesters (2 years).

Universities of Wisconsin 

The Wisconsin Tuition Promise provides up to four years of tuition and fee funding for undergraduate students coming from families earning less than $62,000 annually and enrolling at 12 public universities other than UW-Madison.

Vanderbuilt University

“Opportunity Vanderbilt” is a new financial aid program that provides full-tuition scholarships without loans to all students with families making less than $150,000 annually. According to the Vanderbilt Hustler, the median aid awarded for the 2023-24 school year to first-year students with family incomes ranging from $125,000 to $150,000 was $70,359. This exceeds the $61,618 cost of tuition estimated by the Office of Student Financial Aid. 

Warren Wilson College 

Warren Wilson will award up to 25 full-tuition Milepost One scholarships to students with total family income levels equal to or below $150,000 per year. This means that even families who may not be eligible for federal or state need-based grants still have an opportunity to earn a full tuition scholarship - this includes eligibility for international and DACA students.

Washington University in St. Louis

The WashU Pledge is a financial aid program that will provide a free undergraduate education to incoming, full-time Missouri and southern Illinois students who come from a family with $75,000 or less in annual income.

Weber State University 

The Dream Weber program provides free tuition and general student fees to students enrolled in 12-semester credits who qualify for a Pell Grant and whose annual household income is $50,000 or less.

Wesleyan University

If your family income is less than $120,000 (with typical assets), Wesleyan University will ensure that there are no student loans in your Wesleyan financial aid package.

 Starting in the fall of 2024, Wesleyan University will no longer include loans in its financial aid packages.

Westminster University 

The Westminster Commitment is a tuition-free program for academically driven students from Utah who have a financial need. Utah high school graduates with a 3.3 GPA and who come from families making less than $60,000 per year qualify.

Yale University

Families with annual income below $75,000 and typical assets qualify for a “zero parent share award”- Yale’s most generous financial aid package. These awards cover the full cost of tuition and fees, housing, food, and travel with a Yale Scholarship, and qualifying students receive a $2,000 grant for their first year and hospitalization insurance coverage. 

Questbridge programs

Questbridge is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that ensures high-achieving students from low-income backgrounds can reach their full potential at the nation’s best colleges. 

The QuestBridge path to college begins with the College Prep Scholars Program, which helps high school juniors become strong applicants to top colleges. In their senior year, students can apply to the National College Match, an admissions process that connects students with admission and full four-year scholarships or generous financial aid from college partners

Students admitted to a college partner through the National College Match join the QuestBridge Scholars Network, which provides them with engagement opportunities and a supportive community on campus and nationwide. 

After graduation, the QuestBridge Alumni Association provides additional opportunities to support students in succeeding in their careers and communities.

Questbridge college partners are highly selective research universities and liberal arts colleges in the United States. College partners offer an outstanding education to their undergraduate students. These schools range in size from 900 to over 16,000 undergraduates. 

The colleges and universities listed below are partnered with QuestBridge:

Amherst College in Amherst, MA

Barnard College in New York, NY

Boston College in Chestnut Hill, MA

Boston University I BU in Boston, MA

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME

Brown University in Providence, RI

California Institute of Technology I Caltech, in Pasadena, CA

Carleton College in Northfield, MI

Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH

Claremont McKenna College I CMC in Claremont, CA

Colby College in Waterville, ME

Colgate University in Hamilton, NY

College of the Holy Cross I Holy Cross in Worcester, MA

Colorado College in Colorado, CO

Columbia University in New York, NY

Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH

Davidson College in Davidson, NC

Denison University in Granville, OH

Duke University in Durham, NC

Emory University in Atlanta, GA

Grinnell College in Grinnell, IA

Hamilton College in Clinton, NY

Haverford College in Haverford, PA

John Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD

Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN

Massachusetts Institute of Technology I MIT in Cambridge, MA

Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT

Northwestern University in Evanston, IL

Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH

Pomona College in Claremont, CA

Princeton University in Princeton, NJ

Rice University in Houston, TX

Scripps College in Claremont, CA

Smith College in North Hampton, MA

Stanford University in Stanford, CA

Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, PA

Tufts University in Medford, MA

The University of Chicago in Chicago, IL

University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, IL

University of Pennsylvania I UPENN in Philadelphia, PA

University of Southern California I USC in Los Angeles, CA

University of Virginia I UVA in Charlottesville, VA

Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN

Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY 

Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA

Washington University in St. Louis I WashU in St Louis, MO

Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA

Wesleyan College in Middletown, CT

Williams College in Williamstown, MA

Yale University in New Haven, CT

 

Applying to colleges with free tuition

When applying to colleges offering free tuition for low-income students, carefully reviewing the admissions requirements and application process is vital. Each college may have specific criteria and deadlines that must be met. 

Admissions requirements can include submitting transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and personal statements.

To set yourself up for success, we suggest gathering all necessary documents and preparing a compelling application highlighting your achievements, experiences, and future goals. Seek guidance from teachers, counselors, or mentors who can provide valuable insights and assistance throughout the application process. 

By submitting a well-prepared and thoughtful application, you increase your chances of gaining admission to colleges with free tuition programs.

Additional resources for students

In addition to accessing free tuition or the benefits of Questbridge programs, students can take advantage of other programs that expand access and opportunities for success. We’ll cover two of our favorite opportunities now. 

Summer bridge programs

Many colleges and universities offer structured summer programs for incoming students to support their academic and social transition to the institution. These cohort-based programs serve as a supportive "bridge" from your high school to your four-year college experience.

Summer bridge programs are often designed to serve communities of students with limited access to higher education, including students of color, students in the first generation of their family to complete a bachelor's degree, students from low-income households, and students whose backgrounds are underrepresented in particular academic disciplines.

Some summer bridge programs may even allow you to earn college credit or satisfy degree requirements before your first year. While other programs provide financial assistance, sometimes called "startup grants," through a stipend, grant, or purchased technology.

Click this link to read more about summer bridge programs and how they can help you better access and succeed in college. 

Fly-in and diversity programs

Many colleges and universities would like to enroll more students from first-generation, lower-income, or minoritized racial and ethnic backgrounds, so they will host events focused on culture and diversity to increase representation from underrepresented student groups. 

These overnight or multi-day events, often known as ‘fly-in programs,’ let you experience campus up close so you can get to know the students and faculty who bring the college to life. 

For prospective students, fly-ins and diversity visit programs typically occur in the spring of junior year or fall of senior year before you submit your college applications. There are also fly-in and visit programs created to help admitted students decide where to enroll in the spring of senior year.

You can read more about fly-in and diversity programs here. 

Learn your chances of admission with Appily

As you navigate the college application process, you'll want to make confident decisions based on facts. You can use Appily's chances calculator to calculate your chances of getting into any college. 

Simply input data points like your GPA and test scores if you have them, and you’ll be able to see how you stack up against your peers. It’s always free and easy. Click the button below to learn your chances.

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