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States That Offer Free College Tuition Programs

By Jacqueline DeMarco · August 16, 2021 · 5 minute read

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States That Offer Free College Tuition Programs

It’s not a secret that paying for college can be expensive, especially without the help of parents. But if students live in states that offer free college tuition, they may be able to get some help paying for college.

Read on for a closer look at what these programs entail and some states that have free college tuition programs designed to help ease the financial burden of pursuing a higher education.

What Are Free College Tuition Programs?

There is no one-size-fits all approach to free tuition state programs and some apply to four-year universities and others are designed to assist students attending two-year community college and technical school programs.

Some tuition-free programs only cover the cost of tuition, but other programs may cover school fees or provide stipends for necessary expenses like textbooks.

Related: Colleges That Offer Free Tuition

It’s important to note that these financial aid programs may only cover the costs of tuition because other expenses that are considered necessary to attend college outside of tuition can add up quickly.

Transportation, books, supplies, and room and board can all be very expensive. That being said, free tuition is one avenue that could help keep college costs manageable. So, what states offer free college tuition programs?

States with Four-Year Free College Tuition

Those looking to obtain a four-year degree, may be able to get their tuition paid for through these state programs. While none of these programs are a guarantee, applying for them can better the odds of receiving tuition assistance.

California Promise Program

Select California State University campuses participate in a pledge program, the California Promise
Program
, that provides support to first-time students who complete baccalaureate degrees in four years.

Indiana 21st Century Scholars Program

The 21st Century Scholars Program encourages Indiana students in the 7th and 8th grade to stay in school and keep up their grades by promising them money for college if they meet program requirements.

Oklahoma’s Promise

To qualify for the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program, Oklahoma students must be enrolled in the 8th, 9th, or 10th grade and their parents’ federal adjusted gross income can’t exceed $55,000 per year.

New York Excelsior Scholarship

Through the Excelsior Scholarship , New York families that make $125,000 a year or less could qualify for their children to attend any CUNY and SUNY two- and four-year colleges in New York State tuition-free.

Washington College Bound

In the state of Washington, students can apply to participate in the College Bound scholarship program which commits college financial aid to middle school students who meet pledge requirements. This scholarship covers the average public college tuition amount, as well as some fees at more than 60 schools. A small book allowance is also provided.

States with Community College Free Tuition

Some states have financial assistance programs designed to help students attend local community colleges whether they are planning to eventually transfer to a four-year university or if they are looking to obtain an associate degree or certificate programs.

Related: In-State Tuition: a Look at Establishing Residency

Arkansas Future Grant

The Arkansas Future Grant covers the cost of tuition and fees for certain certificate and associate degree programs at public education institutions in Arkansas.

Delaware SEED Program

Since 2005, the Delaware SEED Program has given free college credits at Delaware Technical Community College to thousands of Delaware high school graduates.

Hawai’i Promise Scholarship

The Hawai’i Promise Scholarship provides free in-state tuition to students with financial needs who attend the University of Hawai’i Community College. This program covers direct education costs including tuition, books, supplies, transportation, and school fees.

Kentucky Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program

The Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program assists Kentucky college and high school students in paying for tuition as they work towards earning an industry‐recognized certificate or diploma.

Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship

Students who are pursuing certificates, vocational certificates, or associate degrees may qualify for the Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship if all other aid options are exhausted and they are enrolled in select Maryland community college programs.

Minnesota MnSCU Two-Year Occupational Grant Pilot Program

Minnesota students may qualify for financial assistance through the MnSCU Two-Year Occupational Grant Pilot Program if enrolled in qualifying career and technical programs at MnSCU two-year college.

Missouri A+ Scholarship

Missouri students who attended A+ designated highschools may qualify for the Missouri A+ Scholarship if they attend a select public community college, vocational school, or technical school.

Montana Promise Act

Students attending a two-year institution of the Montana university system and taking select courses may qualify for the Montana Promise Act . To be eligible, students must be enrolled in a Montana community or tribal college, or other Montana university system two-year institution at least part-time.

Nevada Promise Scholarship

The Nevada Promise Scholarship is a last-dollar scholarship that can cover up to three years of tuition and mandatory fees not covered by other forms of gift aid for Nevada high school graduates to attend community college.

The Oregon Promise Grant

Oregon students seeking assistance paying for college should consider applying for the Oregon Promise
Grant
which covers the tuition costs at any Oregon community college for students who recently graduated high school or passed the GED test.

Rhode Island Promise

The Rhode Island Promise program allows recent Rhode Island high school graduates to obtain an associate degree at the Community College of Rhode Island tuition-free.

Tennessee Promise

The Tennessee Promise program is a scholarship and mentoring program for students attending any of Tennessee’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology, or other select eligible institutions.

Finding Ways to Pay for College

Free tuition programs may not be available to all students. In that case, paying for college may require compiling together a few different sources of financing.

Students can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) each year to apply for federal aid, including scholarships, grants, federal student loans, and work-study programs.

If college students need help covering the costs of pursuing higher education and don’t receive enough financial aid to do so, they have the option of applying for student loans that can help them pay for college. Private student loans can step in if gift aid and federal student loans don’t provide enough financial coverage.

Federal student loans are issued by the US government, whereas private student loans come from private lenders.

Generally, students will want to exhaust other options like scholarships and federal student loans first as they come with government-backed benefits such as fixed interest rates and income-driven repayment plans that are not available with private student loans.

Students and their families can find private student loans at credit unions, banks, and some state-affiliated organizations. The terms and conditions of these loans will be set by the lender.

While private student loans can cost more than federal student loans, they can help provide the funds necessary to attend college and other expenses such as room and board.

Recommended: How to Pay for College

The Takeaway

Some states offer free tuition programs that provide residents with resources to help cover their tuition costs. For those that qualify, these programs can provide much-needed financing to help them pursue their education goals.

Sometimes, federal aid isn’t enough to cover a students’ college costs. In that case, some students may explore private student loans. Keep in mind that these lack borrower protections available for federal student loans so they are generally considered a last resort option to pay for college. When shopping for private student loans, it can be helpful to compare potential interest rates and fees with different lenders to find the best deal.

To make attending college more affordable, SoFi offers fee-free private student loans with flexible repayment options and exclusive rate discounts. Borrowers won’t ever have to worry about hidden fees and can quickly and easily apply for undergraduate loans, graduate loans, and parent loans.

Learn more about SoFi’s private student loan options.

Photo credit: iStock/Vimvertigo


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