With the cost of tuition rising each year, many students find themselves wondering how they will be able to keep up with both the financial and academic burdens of their education. While scholarships and grants may help cover some expenses, there is often a huge money gap yet to be covered. Fortunately, there are several colleges that offer free tuition to qualifying applicants, as well as national programs that give its participants up to 100 percent of state college tuition fees.
Ask your current employer whether your company offers free tuition reimbursement at state colleges to its employees. Many companies consider the cost of your tuition a worthy investment into your future with their agency; likewise, you may be contractually obligated to stay with them for a certain period of time because they've paid for your education. Consult your employer's human resources department for specific terms and details on tuition reimbursement.
Apply to and gain acceptance into a state college's ROTC program. The Army, Air Force, and Navy all offer these programs at colleges across the United States so the decision is yours. Although you will be able to attend school full time without risk of being deployed, ROTC scholarships come with the stipulation that a certain number of years must be served on active duty after graduation. Consult your prospective college's ROTC office for specific terms and conditions.
Study hard for your SAT and/or ACT exams, participate in extracurricular activities (especially volunteer work), and keep your GPA as high as possible while in high school. If you become a National Merit Scholarship Finalist but don't win, you will still automatically qualify for free tuition at over 80 colleges across the United States. See resources for a full list of schools.
Fill out the FAFSA form to prove income based need. Many state colleges offer grant packages to students with demonstrable financial need regardless of state of residency, so be sure to return the FAFSA well before your state's deadline. If your family makes less than $20,000 a year, you will most likely receive a Pell Grant, which can award up to $4,200 annually to cover tuition fees. These grants can be renewed for up to 4 years and do not have to be paid back.
Speak to a military recruiter about their branch's particular education benefits. Although these will vary depending upon each individual's enlistment terms, the GI Bill often covers up to 100 percent of tuition costs for qualified recruits no matter what state they are a resident of. Veterans who are residents of Wyoming, Wisconsin, Texas, Montana and Connecticut are eligible to receive free tuition at their respective state colleges and universities.
Visit your state colleges' websites for specific information on how you can receive free tuition regardless of your income level.
Children of state college employees are often eligible to free tuition at these institutions. If this applies to you, ask your parents to visit the college's financial aid department as soon as possible to find out the exact requirements on their behalf for this waiver.
Always confirm the conditions of your state college's offers of free tuition before assuming you will qualify with the institution itself.