Are you interested in higher education but worry about the financial investment? You're in luck—free college (or dramatically reduced costs) are increasingly common. Read on as we spotlight the tuition-free options in each state.
Higher education or formal technical and professional training is often the key to higher pay, allowing students young and old to enhance their competitiveness in the job market. And while there's a direct correlation between earning potential and higher education, the cost of college can deter students from pursing that degree. Thankfully, most states offer significant financial aid programs that, in many cases, cover the entire cost of two or four-year college.
Throughout this article, we highlight state-based programs that cover the cost of both two and four-year education. While these initiatives vary by state, their goals are similar: to expand access to higher education. Keep reading to see which states offer free college and what is required to receive funding.
States With Free Tuition for Four-Year Colleges
While there aren't any states that offer entirely free four-year college to all students, some states have implemented programs that provide free or reduced-cost tuition for specific groups of students. These financial resources are typically available to students from underserved populations and those coming from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Keep reading as we spotlight some state-based programs that offer free college or dramatically reduced tuition for students who satisfy their requirements.
Indiana's 21st Century Scholar program provides reduced or free education to eligible applicants. Students must apply during 7th or 8th grade and must be Indiana residents who can demonstrate economic hardship.
The All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship is a program in Iowa that offers financial assistance to high-achieving, low-income students who attend eligible Iowa colleges or universities. It covers tuition and mandatory fees for up to four years and aims to increase access to higher education for economically and socially disadvantaged students.
Louisiana's Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) is a merit-based scholarship program that provides tuition assistance to eligible high school graduates in the state. This state-backed award offers various funding levels based on academic performance and covers some or all of the tuition at eligible public and private colleges in the state.
The MASSGrant and MASSGrant Plus programs are need-based financial aid programs in Massachusetts. The MASSGrant provides tuition assistance to eligible undergraduate students attending participating colleges and universities in the state. MASSGrant Plus offers additional funds to students with extraordinary financial needs, covering educational expenses beyond tuition.
The Minnesota Future Together Grants is a funding opportunity for college students pursuing degrees in high-need career areas. These areas include healthcare, STEM, business, education, public service, and industry and technology. This program is available through 2024 and is available to Minnesota residents attending a public college or university.
Whether you're a first-time college student or returning to school after years of working, the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship programs offer up to 100% funding to award-winners. Applicants must be New Mexico residents and can plan to enroll as both full-time or part-time students.
The Excelsior Scholarship Program is a New York state-based initiative that provides eligible students with tuition-free education at public colleges and universities in the state, covering both four-year and community colleges. It covers the remaining cost of tuition after applying for other federal and state grants, ensuring that students demonstrating financial need can pursue higher education without tuition expenses.
Established in 1992, Oklahoma's Promise is a scholarship initiative overseen by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. This award provides tuition assistance to eligible Oklahoma students from low-income families and covers the cost of tuition at Oklahoma public colleges or a portion of tuition at private institutions in the state. This program is available to students at both four-year institutions and community colleges.
Washington State's College Bound scholarship is a program that supplies financial aid support to eligible low-income students. This intitiative guarantees tuition assistance to income-qualified middle-school students—students who qualify for the state's free lunch program are automatically enrolled. This scholarship covers tuition at eligible colleges and universities.
Wyoming's Hathaway Scholarship relies on the state's mineral rights and endows a $400 million scholarship fund. Every middle school or high school student who is a Wyoming resident is automatically eligible for this award that pays for school at both the University of Wyoming and area community colleges.
States with Free College for Two-Year Colleges
What's more common than free tuition for a bachelor's degree is state-wide initiatives that fund community college education—there has been a growing trend in the United States toward providing free tuition for two-year or community colleges. These programs aim to make higher education more accessible and affordable, especially for lower-income students and those from underserved communities. This section explores the various states that offer tuition-free options for community college students.
The Arkansas Future Grant is a state-funded program that offers tuition-free education to eligible students attending two-year colleges or technical schools in the state. It covers tuition and fees for specific programs in high-demand fields, providing students with opportunities to gain valuable skills that simultaneously address workforce shortages.
The California College Promise Grant, formerly known as the Board of Governors Fee Waiver, is a program that provides financial assistance to eligible California residents attending community colleges. It waives enrollment fees for qualifying students, ensuring that cost is not a barrier to accessing higher education and professional training.
Connecticut's Pledge to Advance CT (PACT) seeks to expand access to higher education by funding the financial gap between state and federal grants and community college tuition and fees. This initiative is available to full-time resident students who are attending community and technical colleges for the first time.
Delaware's Student Excellence Equals Degree (SEED) program helps students cover the cost of an associate degree after factoring in any approved grants. This scholarship covers up to three years of school and is available to students in associate degree and technical programs at any campus of Delaware Technical and Community College or the University of Delaware.
Georgia's Zell Miller Grant is a merit-based award that's available to resident students pursuing a diploma or certificate at either the Technical College System of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.
The Hawaii Promise Program is a need-based initiative that offers tuition-free education at community colleges in Hawaii for eligible residents. This program goes further than just covering tuition and fees, and covers additional expenditures like books and supplies. Applicants must demonstrate financial need through the FAFSA and maintain a 2.0 GPA.
The Next Level Jobs Workforce Ready Grant is an Indiana program that provides tuition assistance for eligible students seeking short-term, high-demand certification in various fields. This award covers the cost of tuition and fees for approved workforce training programs, including manufacturing, construction, health sciences, and IT services. The grant is available for two years and covers the cost of all required credits.
The Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship is a state-sanctioned program that provides financial support to Iowa residents pursuing education and training in high-demand fields. This scholarship supplies tuition support for eligible individuals attending community colleges or other approved training programs after other financial aid is applied. The Future Ready program aims to close the skills gap and meet workforce demands in the state.
The Kansas Promise Scholarship covers the cost of tuition, fees, and textbooks after other financial aid options are applied. Interested students must be Kansas residents attending one of the state's community colleges and other participating schools. Additionally, students must be pursuing an associate degree in high-demand fields such as healthcare, early childhood education, and IT.
Funded by the Kentucky Lottery, the state's Work Ready Scholarship Programs offer tuition-free community college for nearly all residents interested in a high-demand field. This program covers up to 60 credits, and students must enroll in fields including business administration, digital forensics, and human resources. Additionally, this initiative covers a long list of four-month technical certificate tracks.
Maine's Free College Scholarship is a tuition-free program for recent high school graduates and pays for two years of community college education. This funding covers costs after students apply any state and federal aid, and additional grant funds can be used to cover non-tuition expenses like books and supplies. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED in the past three years, enroll in a community college program, and maintain their Maine residence.
Whether you're pursuing a technical certificate or an associate degree, the Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship offers enough funding to cover the cost of your education. Interested students must be Maryland residents, meet the household income requirements, and must enroll as full-time students.
The Michigan Reconnect Program is an initiative that offers tuition-free education at community colleges, providing an excellent opportunity for residents aged 25 or older to earn an associate degree or industry-recognized certificate. Eligible individuals must have lived in Michigan for at least one year and have not yet completed a college degree.
The Missouri A+ Scholarship Program provides tuition assistance to eligible students attending participating community colleges and technical schools. To qualify, students must meet certain criteria, including maintaining academic standing and completing 50 hours of tutoring or mentoring. In addition to high school graduates, adult students over the age of 25 are eligible if they haven't completed a college degree and meet income requirements.
For Montana residents pursuing higher education at two-year colleges, the Montana Promise Grant covers the remaining cost of school after state and federal aid. Applicants who demonstrate financial need take priority, as do students pursuing high-demand fields like healthcare and IT.
The Nevada Promise is open to resident high school graduates and provides last-dollar tuition and fee assistance. Eligible students must complete the application process, maintain a minimum GPA, and participate in required mentoring activities. This award covers up to three years of tuition and is also open to public school graduates who live in out-of-state counties that border Nevada.
The New Jersey Community College Opportunity Grant offers tuition-free education for eligible students. This grant applies to any of the state's community colleges and includes free tuition for up to four years. Those who secure this award must enroll in a minimum of six credits and must demonstrate financial need.
The New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship provides free tuition and fees to resident students attending any public institution in the state. Eligible for both recent high school graduates and adult learners, applicants must hold state residency, enroll full-time, and maintain a minimum GPA. This program is available to all students, regardless of immigration status.
Oregon's Higher Education Coordinating Committee oversees the Oregon Promise Grant and helps students cover the cost of up to 90 credits of community college coursework. Applicants must have Oregon residency and enroll in at least six credits each semester. Additionally, this program is earmarked for recent high school graduates or GED recipients, and students should have a minimum 2.0 high school GPA.
The Rhode Island Promise is a fairly recent initiative that offers free community college for eligible residents. Students interested in this program must be recent high school graduates or GED recipients under 20 years old. This higher education funding opportunity covers two years of community college, and students must enroll full-time and maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA.
The South Carolina Workforce Scholarship Program offers an opportunity for residents seeking workforce training and college-level coursework. This award is available to students pursuing both associate degrees or technical certificates, and applicants must be South Carolina residents, enroll in an approved certificate or diploma program, and demonstrate financial needs. The scholarship covers tuition, fees, and textbooks, all while empowering students to gain valuable skills for in-demand careers.
Another last-dollar program that covers remaining costs after applying state and federal financial aid, the Tennessee Promise is an education grant program that ensures free community and technical school education. High school graduates and GED recipients must apply by the deadline, complete required community service hours, and maintain satisfactory academic progress.
The Virginia G3 Program facilitates free community college for students pursuing education and career training in high-demand fields. Eligible education areas include IT, public safety, healthcare, skilled trades, and early education. Eligible students must be Virginia residents, meet financial need requirements, and must enroll in an approved program at one of the state's public community colleges.
The West Virginia Invests is a last-dollar financial aid initiative that covers the cost of certificate and associate degree programs at participating public institutions in the state. Applicants must be West Virginia residents, pass a drug screen, and complete two hours of community service for each semester that a student receives funding. Students must also maintain a 2.0 GPA and pledge to live in the state for two years after completing their program.
Vermont's 802 Opportunity Grant seeks to expand access to higher education for students who demonstrate financial need. This program covers tuition and fees post-federal and state financial aid, and includes any associate degree program. Applicants must be Vermont residents, gain admission into an associate degree or certificate program, and must prove a family income of less than $75,000 annually.
Free College FAQs
Can I go to college for free?
- Many states offer tuition-free college for students who demonstrate financial need. This varies by state, and what's most common is free community college for eligible students. If you have questions, contact the financial aid department at your local community college—they'll fill you in on everything you need to know and what financial aid is available to you.
Is free college worth it?
- The data doesn't lie: according to the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, individuals who earn a bachelor's degree make 84% more than those without. While the most common tuition-free options cover the cost of two-year community college degrees, an associate degree is a great start and prepares you to seamlessly transition to a four-year institution.
What academic areas are covered by tuition-free college?