Options for Getting a Free College Education in 2023

by Miranda Jackson

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Perhaps you don’t need to go into debt to get a degree. You have several options that can help you save significantly on higher education.

It’s no secret getting a college degree is expensive and student loans even more so.

However, there are several ways to get a free college education or a greatly reduced one, whether you’re headed to college or your child is.

Here are some options to consider:

Get Employer Tuition Assistance

Some employers offer tuition assistance or reimbursement programs for employees pursuing higher education.

You might have to pay for classes upfront and meet certain requirements to be eligible for reimbursement or assistance, but it can be a great way to earn a degree and an income at the same time.

Check with your employer to see if they have such a program.

Attend a Tuition-Free College

Some colleges and universities offer free tuition to all or some of their students. However, few colleges are completely free. You may have to pay some fees and room and board.

Here is an overview from U.S. News of 18 tuition-free colleges.

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Choose a College With a Free-Tuition Pledge

Some schools have programs that cover tuition for students from low-income families. For example, Harvard University covers the tuition of students whose family’s income is less than $85,000 annually. For Stanford University, the cutoff is $100,000.

Check if your desired school has such a program and if you qualify.

Consider a Work-Study Program

Some colleges offer work-study opportunities to help students pay for their education. Students can work part-time on campus or in community service positions.

Join the Military

Military service members can take advantage of educational benefits such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers full tuition and fees for public colleges and universities or a portion of the costs for private institutions.

Options for Saving on a College Degree

If you or your student can’t take advantage of one of the above options, you may be able to significantly reduce the cost by taking advantage of all sources of free financial aid, including the following:

Get Scholarships

Your student doesn’t necessarily have to be a straight-A student to qualify for a scholarship. Searching for scholarships and applying is time-consuming but well worth the time if your student can win a few.

Here are seven steps that can maximize the chance of winning a scholarship.

Take Advantage of Federal or State Financial Aid

Make sure your student applies for federal grants, such as Pell Grants, which do not need to be repaid. Some states also offer state-funded grants based on financial need, merit or both.

Apply for Grants and Non-Scholarship Financial Aid

Besides scholarships, many organizations offer grants or other financial assistance that doesn’t have to be repaid. Look for opportunities within your community, through professional associations or by searching online databases.

Attend College Part-Time While Working

By working and attending college part-time, your student may be able to cover tuition costs not covered by other means. This option may extend the time it takes to complete a degree, but it can help your student graduate debt-free.

Attend a Community College

Many community colleges offer low-cost or even free tuition for local residents. Your student can complete their general education requirements and then transfer to a four-year.

Don’t Go To College

Studies suggest that one-quarter of Americans with a college degree are unsure whether it was worth the cost. Another 13% are unsure whether it was worth it.

Before paying for a college, first, make sure a degree makes financial sense. You may be able to acquire the skills you need to advance your career without getting a degree.

Several platforms and universities offer free online courses, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), where you can learn from top-notch institutions without paying tuition. Although these courses may not always grant college credits, you can gain valuable knowledge and skills.

Some other free options for taking online classes include:

Reviewed October 2023

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