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Several state programs offer free tuition for two-year and four-year programs. But free tuition doesn’t equal free college.
Students who attend tuition-free schools often still need to cover costs such as fees, room and board and transportation. You can pay using a combination of savings, grants, scholarships and work-study. If needed, student loans can be used for these and other living expenses as well.
If you plan to take out loans, max out federal loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, before turning to private student loans, since the latter come with higher interest rates and don’t offer certain protections or loan forgiveness opportunities. Always shop around to compare offers before taking out a private student loan.
Here’s a roundup of states with free college programs. These are sponsored by the state and are all tuition-free. Many are "last-dollar" scholarship programs, which means the money covers remaining tuition only after federal and state grant money is applied.
Four-year free college tuition
Community college free tuition
Limited free-tuition programs
Local and city free-tuition programs
You can also look for tuition-free scholarship programs offered through high schools, colleges and universities nationwide. Typically students will have to reside in a certain location, attend a certain school or have low income. Some examples of programs include:
Bobcat Promise program at Texas State University offers free tuition and fees for qualifying Texas residents from low-income families.
City College of San Francisco’s Free City program provides tuition-free access to all California residents living in the city.
Boston Bridge, a last-dollar free-college program, is available to all Massachusetts high school graduates living in the city.
New Haven Promise, an annual award covering up to full tuition at a Connecticut public two-year or four-year college or university to students living in New Haven and attending a New Haven Public School.
University of Southern California offers tuition-free attendance to families with an annual income of $80,000 or less. USC does not count home ownership in its financial need calculation.