These States Offer Tuition-Free Community College (2023)

With student loan debt consistently reaching new all-time highs nationwide, it makes perfect sense for families to stop and think before they follow the traditional four-year college path. Not only should they look at the long-term costs of attending a four-year public or private school, but they should also think about the return-on-investment they’re likely to receive. In other words, is the college degree their young adult wants to pursue going to pay off in dollars and cents?

In some cases, it can even make sense to forgo four-year schools and head to community college instead. After all, community colleges offer work training programs and associate degrees that lead to high-paying degrees over a shorter timeline, and community college is considerably less expensive overall.

How much can you expect to pay? According to College Board figures, average tuition and fees worked out to $3,370 for two-year public schools for the 2019-2020 school year, whereas average four-year public schools rang in at $10,440 for in-state students.

That’s a big difference, but it’s also important to remember that a large percentage of two-year college students ultimately transfer to a four-year school. According to the Community College Research Center, around 30 percent of those entering community college in 2012 had transferred to a four-year school within six years. “Among community college students who transferred to a four-year college, 74% transferred to public institutions, 19% to private nonprofit institutions, and 7% to for-profit institutions,” notes the institution.

Which States Offer Tuition-Free Community College?

Interestingly, some states have programs that make community college tuition-free for qualifying students. Eligibility typically depends on the student’s ability to prove financial need, as well as a strong academic performance.


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(Video) An argument against free community college tuition

Since many students attend community college but ultimately transfer to a four-year school, opting for a two-year college experience at first can help students limit how much they pay for school and, ultimately, how much they borrow.

The states that have programs that make community college free are mentioned below:

Arkansas Future Grant

The Arkansas Future Grant is available on a first come, first serve basis, and is available to students who have lived in Arkansas for at least three years and those who graduated from an Arkansas public school. Otherwise, you must be enrolled in a degree program that leads to a high-demand field or a STEM field. Students also need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form, to determine eligibility.

This program aims to cover tuition and fees for eligible Arkansas students pursuing a certificate or Associate’s degree.

California Promise

The California Promise program is limited to California residents who are pursuing two-year and four-year degrees in California public schools. This program is for students who can prove financial need, and additional requirements apply. For example, enrolled students must agree to meet with college advisors, stick with an education plan, and complete 30 semester units per academic year in order to receive this financial assistance.


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SEED ProgramThe SEED program, which stands for Student Excellence Equals Degree, allows eligible Delaware students to attend public community colleges in the state tuition-free. To qualify, you must meet specific Delaware residency requirements, maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher on a 4.0 scale, and avoid having been convicted of any felony charges. You also need to fill out a FAFSA form in order to determine financial eligibility.

Hawaii Promise Scholarship

The Hawaii Promise Scholarship aims to provide free in-state tuition for qualified University of Hawaii Community College students who have financial need. This program covers direct education costs including tuition, fees, books, supplies and transportation for eligible students. You need to fill out a FAFSA form to determine eligibility, and this is a “last dollar” scholarship, meaning it will cover tuition costs after other forms of aid have been exhausted.

Indiana 21st Century Scholars Program

The 21st Century Scholars Program is available to Indiana residents who are enrolled in the 7th or 8th grade at an Indiana public or private school. This program offers up to four years of tuition at public colleges in the state, and it intends to help middle school students stay on a college path throughout high school.

Academic requirements apply, as do income limits that vary by family size. In 2020, for example, this program is only available for students in a household with four people with an income below $47,638

Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program

The Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship Program is for Kentucky students who are pursuing degrees in select fields including health care, advanced manufacturing, transportation/logistics, business services/IT, and construction. This program kicks in to provide financial aid after other forms of aid have been exhausted.

Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship

The Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship is another state-based program that intends to help Maryland students cover the cost of higher education once other forms of aid have been exhausted. Students must also have an unweighted GPA of at least 2.3 and choose to pursue a degree-granting program at a community college in the state. Income limits also apply and depend on marital status and household size.

MnSCU Two-Year Occupational Grant Pilot Program

(Video) Who Gets Free Tuition at CA Community Colleges? | SoCal Update

Minnesota students can look into the MnSCU Two-Year Occupational Grant Pilot Program, which provides financial assistance to students enrolled in a two-year school in the state. This is another “last dollar” program, meaning the funding kicks in after other grants and aid you might receive when you fill out a FAFSA form. Income limits apply.

Missouri A+ Scholarship

The Missouri A+ Scholarship is open to eligible Missouri residents who agree to attend designated A+ schools. Additional eligibility requirements apply for these need-based grants, including a good attendance record, an unpaid tutoring or mentoring requirement, and proof of financial need.

Montana Promise Act

Students who plan to attend two-year tribal and community colleges should look into the Montana Promise Act. This act provides last dollar assistance good for tuition and living expenses for eligible students.

New York Excelsior Scholarship

New York also has a tuition-free degree program known as the Excelsior Scholarship. This program is available to students whose families earn less than $125,000 per year, and it’s applicable to all two-year and four-year CUNY and SUNY schools in the state. You have to take 30 credits per calendar year to qualify.

Nevada Promise Scholarship

The Nevada Promise Scholarship offers last dollar aid to students attending any of the four Nevada community colleges. This program comes with eligibility requirements, including a requirement for some community service. You must fill out a FAFSA form to determine eligibility.

Oklahoma’s Promise

Oklahoma’s Promise is available to Oklahoma residents who are enrolled in the 8th, 9th, or 10th grade. Household adjusted gross income cannot exceed $55,000 in order to qualify, and this promise leads to scholarships for college tuition. Other requirements apply, including the completion of specific high school coursework throughout the program.

(Video) Would free tuition boost success at community colleges?

The Oregon Promise Grant

Oregon residents who want some financial assistance for school should consider the Oregon Promise Grant. This program covers community college tuition costs. Income limits apply, and students must have a 2.50 cumulative GPA or higher throughout high school to qualify.

Rhode Island Promise

The Rhode Island Promise program paves the way for Rhode Island high school students to attend community college tuition-free. This program is available to students who plan to enroll in college full-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA, earn 30 credits per year or more, and enroll every semester for two years. You must fill out a FAFSA form and apply for this program to qualify.

Tennessee Promise

Tennessee also has its own program known as the Tennessee Promise. This program is a scholarship program with a mentoring component, and the last dollar help it provides can cover tuition costs and fees after other forms of aid are exhausted. This program is available to Tennessee residents who attend any community college in the state and maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher.

Washington College Bound

The state of Washington also has its own program known as College Bound. This last dollar program will help cover tuition and fees at eligible Washington schools. Students in 7th and 8th grade whose families meet income requirements can apply, but they must reapply again and fill out a FAFSA form as they prepare to move into college coursework.

Final Thoughts

Community college can be a great choice for students looking for inexpensive alternatives to a four year college. It’s important to remember that English 101 is going to be the same whether taught at a community college or four-year school. Students should really consider community college, especially if it’s free.

However, there are many other financial aid and student loan programs out there offered by various states. They apply not only to community college, but also to four year schools, vocational programs, and more. See this list of student loan and financial aid programs by state.

(Video) Why this former education secretary believes community college should be free

No matter what route you choose, may sure you continue your education with an eye towards your return on investment.


Is community college free in other states? ›

The states offering free community college currently include Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

Does Texas have free community college? ›

The partner colleges include Dallas College, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Texas A&M University-Texarkana, Midwestern State University, and Southern Methodist University. Students are able to enter or transfer to most of the partner colleges tuition-free based on income eligibility (family income of $50,000 or less).

Is there any free colleges in us? ›

Berea College

Berea is now a four-year liberal arts institution, known for their free tuition. They feature 32 courses of study with the outcome of a bachelor's degree. They also feature innovative work-study programs that engage all students.

Are California community colleges free? ›

Are all community colleges free in California? No. If you meet income standards and other requirements, community college can be tuition-free. However, not all community colleges take part in the California College Promise program, and not all students qualify for waivers and grants.

What state has free college? ›

Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Promise covers up to the full cost of tuition at public two-year colleges after other aid has been applied. Students must have a household-adjusted gross income of less than $60,000 to qualify and be able to demonstrate good citizenship and strong academics while in high school.

What states offer free state college to residents? ›

States Offering Free Community College
  • Arkansas. The AR Futures Grant, is the state's newest educational grant, providing last-dollar scholarships for two years of tuition and mandatory fees at community and technical colleges. ...
  • California. ...
  • Connecticut. ...
  • Delaware. ...
  • Georgia. ...
  • Hawaii. ...
  • Indiana. ...
  • Iowa.
May 24, 2022

Can I go to community college for free in Arizona? ›

The Arizona Promise Program makes college accessible for students who live in low-income communities. Qualifying students will receive free tuition and fees for up to four years with this new scholarship. How to qualify for the Arizona Promise Program?

At what age is college free in Texas? ›

Chapter 54 of the Texas Education Code authorizes state colleges to offer free tuition for Texas residents age 65 and older. Like most tuition waivers, the award doesn't cover fees, books, or continuing education classes.

Is community college free in New York? ›

New York was the first state with a free college program covering both two- and four-year colleges, but other states, like New Mexico, are developing their own programs.

Does America have free community college? ›

Although community colleges aren't free nationally, several states have instituted their own programs that make community colleges free for students. The eligibility requirements vary by state, but they typically offer free tuition to students that lived and attended high school in the state.

Why free community college is a good idea? ›

Research shows that free tuition programs encourage more students to attend college and increase graduation rates, which creates a better-educated workforce and higher-earning consumers who can help boost the economy.

Is community college free in Hawaii? ›

The Hawai'i Promise Scholarship program provides free in-state tuition for qualified University of Hawai'i Community College students with financial needs. Hawai'i Promise covers direct education costs—including tuition, fees, and an allowance for books and supplies.

Who qualifies for free community college in California? ›

To qualify for the California College Promise Program, you must meet the following criteria: You must be a California resident or AB 540 eligible student (the California Dream Act waives enrollment fees for non-resident “Dreamers”). You must be a full-time student. You must be a first-time student.

Who gets free college in California? ›

What is the California College Promise Program? The California College Promise Program is a program that provides free tuition to students who attend California community colleges for the first two years of their education.

Is free college really free? ›

Free college isn't a new idea in California: The state's Promise program gives full-time students at some colleges scholarships to cover tuition, and students with a low-enough income can also apply to have their fees waived.

Are community colleges worth it? ›

Are community college degrees worth anything? Yes. Many students go to community college to earn a quick associate's degree and earn more than $50,000. They can even transfer to a university and complete a bachelor's degree later if they choose to do so.

Why is college not free in the US? ›

Since the provision of free college could affect the quality of education, free access for all to postsecondary education might not be able to provide the competencies and skills needed to produce a strong workforce. The government has many competing priorities and free college requires high education subsidies.

Is college free in Canada? ›

Like some Scandinavian countries and Germany, Canada does not offer free college education. However, there are various ways to reduce the cost of studying in Canada.

Is community college free in Colorado? ›

CMC covers tuition for qualified students

With the Colorado Mountain Promise, we will cover tuition for any Colorado resident whose family income is below $70,000. If you're an independent student (typically over 24 years of age) we'll cover your tuition if your household income is $50,000 or less.

Does South Carolina offer free community college? ›

Most South Carolina residents are eligible for free tuition* for all programs, including University Transfer. Multiple state programs are available to provide no-cost or reduced tuition.

Is community college in Oregon free? ›

Oregon Promise is a state grant that covers most tuition at any Oregon community college for recent high school graduates and GED recipients.

Can I go to college for free in South Carolina? ›

South Carolina residents who are at least 60 years old are eligible for the state's free tuition program. It's never too late to learn something new!

Can a 55 year old go to college? ›

It's never too late to go back to school. According to Forbes, going back to school after age 50 is the new normal. Pursuing an education later in life helps adults stay competitive in the workforce. If you have retired, you may have more time to earn a college degree now than you did while you were working.

How long do I have to live in Texas to get in state tuition? ›

Live in Texas for the 12 months immediately before the census date (usually the 12th class day) of the semester in which you enroll at the university (or another college or university).

Is college free in Florida? ›

The FAS scholarship covers the full cost of tuition at a school participating in the Florida Public College and University System plus a modest stipend. FMS: a GPA of at least 3.0 an SAT score of at least 1170 (or equivalent on the ACT), and at least 75 hours of verifiable community service.

Is community college free in CT? ›

Connecticut offers free community college to any high school graduate or GED recipient.

When did CUNY stop being free? ›

CUNY was free for qualifying city students from its inception in 1847 until 1976, when a city fiscal crisis led to change.

What is the cheapest community college in the US? ›

List of Top Cheap Community Colleges in USA
  • Oxnard Community College.
  • Central Wyoming College.
  • Bristol Community College.
  • Lehman College.
  • South Texas Community College.
  • Greenfield Community College.
Oct 28, 2022

Does Georgia offer free community college? ›

Free Tuition

When you pursue a career in any one of 17 high-demand fields including computer technology, health sciences, or early childhood education, you can get started on a rewarding career and have 100% of your college tuition costs covered with Georgia's HOPE Career Grant.

Is community college free in Michigan? ›

Michigan Reconnect, a program aimed at increasing college attainment among adult learners, provides free tuition at in-district community colleges for state residents over the age of 25.

How would free college be paid for? ›

First-dollar tuition-free programs mean that the government would pay for tuition before any grant aid is applied and the student can use that aid to cover other costs of attendance.

How much are community college fees? ›

For the 2021-22 school year, public community colleges charge approximately $5,155 per year for in-state students and $8,835 for out-of-state students. The average yearly tuition for private community colleges is roughly $15,477 per year (Community College Review, 2021).

Does free college increase taxes? ›

Free college would cost on average three times what federal tax dollars pay for now.

Is community college free in Nevada? ›

That's why there's The Nevada Guarantee.

If you're a Nevada resident pursuing an undergraduate degree and you come from a low-income family, we'll guarantee you free tuition, fees and books, plus all the academic and social support you'll need to graduate in four years or less.

Is community college free in Seattle? ›

Seattle Promise has three core components: Free tuition at any of the Seattle Colleges: North Seattle College, Seattle Central College or South Seattle College for up to two years, 90 college credits or a student's first degree, whichever comes first.

Does New Mexico have free college? ›

Most New Mexico students qualify for tuition-free college and can have certain required fees covered under one or both programs. There is no separate application for the Opportunity or Lottery Scholarships as funds are awarded directly to students by the college or university they attend.

Does California pay for community college? ›

California actually spends about $763 million annually to make tuition free for low-income community college students, benefiting about half the system's 2.1 million students. For both part-time and full-time students, the benefit can be a savings of $46 a unit, meaning a student taking 30 units a year can save $1,380.

What is the number 1 community college in California? ›

Ranking #1 in community colleges in California, Taft College provides students with options of 43 associate degrees and 30 certificate programs such as criminal justice, dental hygiene, engineering, computer science, and more.

Do California community colleges accept everyone? ›

There are many paths to get into college. Community colleges are open to everyone. Four-year universities have minimum GPA and in some cases, test score requirements, however exceptions to these standards can be made.

Who qualifies for California Promise Grant? ›

Be classified as a resident of California or be a classified as a non-California resident eligible for tuition exemption AB 540 or AB 1899 (by Admissions and Records), have a "T" or "U" visa., or be a have a homeless youth determination from the Financial Aid Office at your college.

What is the free tuition law? ›

10931, otherwise known as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act is “an act promoting universal access to quality tertiary education by providing free tuition and other school fees in State Universities and Colleges, Local Universities and Colleges, and State-Run Technical-Vocational Institutions, ...

Who qualifies for California Dream Act? ›

The California Dream Act allows undocumented and nonresident students (US citizens and eligible non-citizens) who qualify for a non-resident exemption under Assembly Bill 540 (AB 540) to receive certain types of financial aid such as: private scholarships, state administered financial aid, California College Promise ...

How much is community college out of state tuition? ›

Cost of Out-of-State vs.

For the 2021-22 school year, public community colleges charge approximately $5,155 per year for in-state students and $8,835 for out-of-state students. The average yearly tuition for private community colleges is roughly $15,477 per year (Community College Review, 2021).

How is New Mexico paying for free college? ›

New Mexico's tuition-free college program includes the Lottery Scholarship for recent high school graduates who enroll full time and the Opportunity Scholarship for returning adult learners, part-time students, and students pursuing certain high-demand career training certificates.

What are the cons of community college? ›

Con: Fewer Programs

You'll probably need to attend a four-year university. While community colleges usually offer dozens of degrees and certificates, they don't provide as much variety as a four-year college. On the other hand, community colleges offer more vocational and technical programs.

Do Americans pay for community college? ›

Community colleges are often the most inexpensive route to a college education. Sometimes college is tuition free and students can save money by staying home while attending college. Average annual tuition and fees for community college are $3,770 versus $10,560 for a public four-year college.

Is college free in Colorado? ›

First-time students from Colorado who complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and attend full-time (at least 12 credits) are eligible for free tuition (after all other financial aid awards including, state and federal grants, and all CSU Pueblo institutional grants and scholarships) through the ...

How do I pay for college with nothing? ›

How to attend college for free
  1. Apply for grants and scholarships. ...
  2. Serve your country. ...
  3. Work for the school. ...
  4. Waive your costs. ...
  5. Have your employer pick up the costs. ...
  6. Choose an in-demand career. ...
  7. Attend a work college. ...
  8. Choose a school that pays you.
Jul 5, 2022

Do Mexicans get a free education? ›

Public education in Mexico is secular, free, and compulsory. The school year starts at the end of August and finishes at the beginning of July. Religious education or classes taught in a language other than Spanish can be provided by private schools.

Which state has the best community colleges? ›

States with the best community college systems in 2022
  • New Mexico.
  • Washington.
  • Hawaii.
  • Wisconsin.
  • Minnesota.
  • Wyoming.
  • North Dakota.
  • Oregon.
Aug 19, 2022

What is the cheapest state to go to college? ›

Top 10 states with lowest in-state tuition prices

Among the states offering the cheapest tuition for in-state students, Florida and Wyoming topped the list with prices under $7,000 a year, based on 2022 data from the College Board.

What is the cheapest but best college? ›

Top 100 - Most Affordable Mid-size to Large Colleges and Universities in 2023
RankSchool NameNet Price
1California State University–Dominquez Hills Carson, CA$1,640
2University of Texas–Pan American Edinburg, TX$2,500
3California State University–Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA$2,735
4CUNY Leman College Bronx, New York$2,327
6 more rows

Can you go to college for free? ›

A college education isn't free by any means and there is no such thing as a truly free college education. Even if you qualify for your tuition and living expenses to be paid for by another party, such as your employer, you will still be required to do something in exchange.

Who is eligible for free college in NY? ›

Earn $125,000 or less (household federal adjusted gross income) Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) application.


1. Weekly Address: Tuition-Free Community College
(The Obama White House)
2. Eligible students can attend community college tuition-free
(NJ Spotlight News)
3. Michigan to give free community college tuition to eligible residents 25 and older
(WXYZ-TV Detroit | Channel 7)
4. Colleges with FREE Tuition!
5. New grant will allow some students to attend community college tuition-free
(NJ Spotlight News)
6. $0 is the Cost of Making Public Colleges Tuition Free


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