Higher education often comes with a higher price tag than many students can afford.
Annual tuition and fees can range from around $3000 for a community college to over $30 thousand for a four-year private college.
While great achievements are possible with or without higher education, most sources agree that a college degree improves your earning potential.
If you’re thinking about college but high tuition costs are prohibitive, you’ll be encouraged to know that you may be able to get a college education for free. From new high school graduates to working moms and senior citizens, eager learners are discovering ways to take courses, and even earn degrees, without paying the high costs.
Options for New High School Graduates
Most high school students know that excellence in academics, athletics and the arts can lead to college scholarship awards. Partial and full scholarships are awarded to high school graduates who are exceptional achievers.
Enlisting in the military is another way to have your college paid for. The service academies offer comprehensive educations that prepare students for military careers.
Some institutions, such as the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, have strict academic standards and require a nomination in order to apply.
Other schools are more accessible and only require your commitment to serve for a certain time period.
Senior Citizen Course Benefits
Senior-aged learners have a range of free learning opportunities. Many accredited colleges and universities offer free course audits to seniors. Most programs do not offer credit or degrees, but as long as there is room in the course, seniors can participate in lectures, assignments and testing at no cost. For older adults wanting to keep their brains active and their conversations interesting, this is a perfect learning avenue.
The Free College Movement
Free college degree programs are growing in popularity as high tuition costs and insurmountable student loans have created the need. Some programs allow students to earn two or four-year degrees and others offer free non-degree coursework only.
Colleges with online programs also provide free courses in select fields of study. Even distinguished four-year universities, such as Johns-Hopkins and Notre Dame, have online introductory courses for free in certain disciplines.
Work colleges are just what they sound like. Students pay their tuition through work programs administered by the school. This model has been around for a century and is growing as tuition costs demand alternatives.
Some institutions will also require a service work commitment. The benefit is generally for tuition only, though some programs allow students to work for room and board as well. Eight programs currently exist in the United States.
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With free college models now receiving legislative backing, some states have begun offering at least the first two years of college tuition-free. Tennessee, Oregon, Kentucky and Minnesota were among the pioneers, and now California and a dozen other states have similar programs. New York’s need-based free tuition program has been offering free college courses and degrees since 2017.
Whether you are fresh out of high school or want to enhance your competitive edge with a second degree, you have affordable options even if you don’t have the resources. Opportunities for low-cost or free college studies are available in nearly every discipline for learners of all ages.
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