Recently, I was talking to my friend Courtney about the cost of college and the average student loan debt for college graduates.
She asked, "Have you heard about colleges that you work to pay your tuition?"
I responded, " Do you mean like College of the Ozarks?"
She said, "I haven't heard of that one, I was thinking about Berea College. Are you familiar with that school?"
"I have heard of it," I said, "but, I didn't know they did that."
After doing a little research, I discovered that College of the Ozarks in Lookout Point, MO
and Berea College in Berea, KY are very similar.
At first glance, it looks like College of the Ozarks offers a truly debt-free option, but upon closer inspection they only offer free tuition, just like Berea College. Students will have to pay for Room and Board.
Students do work to help pay for their tuition, but this is from the federal work study that these same students could be eligible for at any college.
A student could graduate completely debt free from Berea or College of the Ozarks, but only about 25% of the students do. Every admitted student receives a tuition scholarship to cover any tuition that outside sources don't cover.
However, only some students receive room and board scholarships. The EFC (expected family contribution) is determined by your FAFSA. Even when I had three students in college our EFC was higher than we could actually afford. Note that Berea says you will have to pay your EFC whether that is from savings, working, or loans. Apparently 75% of their students do take out loans to cover this cost.
Admission to these schools is predominantly need-based. The schools will give a tuition scholarship after the student’s federal and state grants and work-study are applied.
These are not the only schools with ‘free’ tuition if a student is accepted.
Two more examples: Yale and Princeton are Ivy League schools that promise demonstrated financial need will be met so students do not need to take out loans. The acceptance rate at these schools is less than 10%, but if you get accepted...
As I mentioned, don't think Free Tuition is the same as Free College.
Do your research and understand what is actually covered and what the student will still need to pay.
Do you know of other colleges that offer full tuition to all admitted students?