Free College Tuition For Low-Income

Coming from a family or lineage of low-income should never be the deciding factor on whether or not you decide to pursue higher education. With tuition fees, books, meal plans, and all the other factors driving college costs to seemingly never-ending heights, it can seem near impossible for low-income individuals to see themselves being able to afford a 4-year program.

Many private and public colleges change how they approach an equal opportunity for all by offering many scholarships and grants to help bring costs down. In more recent years, some of the country’s most prestigious colleges have offered free tuition for all accepted students who come from low-income families based upon their annual salary.

However, it is important to note that the top-tier schools on this list require exceptional grades with a low acceptance rate in general. Some schools even require, in exchange for free tuition, that work must be done for the school by the student in their free time or summer break. The first step for any student looking to receive free tuition is studying hard and doing the absolute best to show their motivation to succeed.

Public Vs. Private Colleges & University Costs

Public and private schools are differentiated based on the funding used to educate and house students. The state government funds public schools and, in turn, can offer cheaper tuition rates. Although tuition may be cheaper when compared to private universities, the lack of scholarships that greatly bring down tuition costs is worth keeping in mind.

Private schools are funded completely by student tuition fees and donations made by alumni. This funding style allows private schools to offer heavily discounted tuition fees for accepted students through scholarships and work programs. Although funded completely by students, private schools can actually end up having cheaper annual fees than public schools.

Scholarships are available for almost any student, based on specific criteria required for each scholarship. Students can receive scholarships based on their GPA, financial need, or demographic, to name just a few examples of the most common standards taken into consideration.

University of Southern California

Although one of the more recent private schools to join the trend of eliminating tuition costs for low and medium-income individuals, the University of Southern California may be the most notable. Coming when the need for financial assistance has never been greater, USC stepped up to bat.

Undergraduate students who come from a family with an annual income of $80,000 or less can receive a tuition waiver to eliminate those costs. With total annual costs including tuition, books, food plans, and housing reaching upwards of $77,000, waiving these fees allows low-income students to learn at one of the nation’s largest schools. For more information: University of Southern California (

College of the Ozarks

Committed to their motto “no tuition,” the College of the Ozarks located in Missouri strives to provide accepted students no out-of-pocket costs to attend classes. The College of the Ozarks focuses on Christian studies with a low acceptance rate, with roughly 1,500 enrolled undergraduate students.

The College of the Ozarks provides free tuition by capitalizing on state and federal grants along with an in-depth work program for all those accepted for the Ozark Scholarship. Once accepted, students agree to work 15 hours a week for the school and two 40-hour work weeks dispersed throughout the entire academic year. This is a great school to consider when looking for free college tuition. To learn more, visit College of the Ozarks | Hard Work U. (

University of the People

When applying for schools based solely on cost, online school is a cost-efficient way to achieve higher education. The University of the People is a public institution that offers free online courses with minimal additional fees. With no fees for teaching or instruction, this makes the University of the People one of the country’s most affordable schools.

Instead of tuition costs, students are required to pay a one-time non-refundable application fee of $60. On top of this initial fee, a $120 assessment fee is required at the end of each course throughout the school year for an undergraduate diploma. This fee is raised to $240 per course for graduate students, expected to be paid at the end of each course. However, it is important to note that many scholarships are available through the University of the People to waive these costs for low-income and underprivileged applicants. For more information:  University of the People: Tuition-Free, Accredited Online College (

University of North Carolina

For low-income individuals looking for a public school with many degree options, the University of North Carolina is a great option to put on your list. With a 31% acceptance rate, students with a mid-level GPA may have a better chance of getting into this school than other big-name colleges.

UNC works with the Carolina Covenant to provide low-income students with financial aid and scholarships, claiming to ensure accepted applicants can receive a bachelor’s degree with no debt. To be eligible, students must be enrolled in full-time classes and be dependent upon a parent who earns an income less than 200% of the federal poverty line. Students must also meet the citizenship guidelines and be eligible for federally funded financial aid programs.  Learn more:  The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (

Cornell University

Joining the list of Ivy League schools offering free tuition for accepted students, low-income individuals have a shot at earning an education through one of the most notable private schools in the country. Like mentioned before, private schools are funded completely by student tuition and private donations, allowing them to fluctuate tuition prices as they wish.

Cornell boasts free college tuition for all students from a low-income family earning less than $60,000 a year with up to $100,000 in assets, including an owned house or car. Cornell offers a grant combined with a Federal Work-Study program that offers heavily discounted rates in exchange for work done by the student during the school year or summer break. The wages earned from the Work-Study program go directly towards tuition costs, making it easily affordable for low-income individuals to maintain enrollment. For more info: Cornell University

State by State Scholarships

When considering any school to enroll in, it’s important to keep in mind certain factors. Students looking to apply to a school located out of their home state will more often than not pay higher tuition rates than residents. This one detail can make a huge difference in overall costs for higher education. Many scholarships are also dependent upon the student permanently residing in the state in which the school is located, which for many is not the case.

More often than not, both private and public colleges offer a vast array of scholarship opportunities to make education affordable for all. Doing your own research on scholarships available in your area can give you a better idea of the resources available, despite income level.

While eligibility requirements differ state by state, it’s important to know which program you qualify for. If you do not receive aid from one program, try another! Most scholarships operate under first-dollar or last-dollar grants. First-dollar grants are issued to all accepted applicants regardless of additional eligibility for other forms of funding. In contrast, last-dollar grants are only issued after the student cannot afford annual college fees and other forms of financial aid.

Education for All

All of the schools on this list, and many others not mentioned, are dedicated to providing equal opportunity to higher education for all accepted low-income individuals. Having a college degree can help you land that dream job you never thought you would get while putting you on a path towards success.

While GPA does play a huge role in what school you are accepted into, it is not always the final deciding factor. Online and community colleges are notably the most affordable ways to receive higher education. Attending a community college for your first couple of years of schooling will allow you to start on the right foot towards a no-debt degree and qualify you to transfer to a school better suited for your field of study. The most important step you can take when contemplating which school best suits you is to do as much research as possible to fully understand all the scholarships and grants available with low-income applicants in mind.

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