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No Money for College? Consider Free Colleges

{ Posted on Jan 29 2011 by Marcus Alston }

Tuition at a 4-year private college is now at a record high of $109,000, not including room and board, fees and books.  Now add in high unemployment, low investment returns, and depressed real estate values.  Not a great recipe for trying to pay for college.  What are parents and students to do?  Well, believe it or not, there are several educational institutions in the United States where college tuition is free and high quality.

Cooper Union College.  Located in New York City, New York, in the East Village, Cooper is known for its engineering, architecture and art programs.  Founded in 1859 by Peter Cooper, the school has been free since it opened.  Peter Cooper’s goal was to offer higher education for working class students.  The school has a population of about 900 students.

How can they offer free tuition in New York City?  The school relies on an endowment of approximately $600 million to keep tuition free.  In addition to the typical college application, the architecture and art programs require completing a home test of artistic talent.  They accept only 7% of the 4,200 students who apply each year.  This is lower than such well known and revered institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stamford and Amherst College.  In fact, according to US News and World Report, based on a review of 100 school using acceptance rate, it is #2 in the country, just ahead of Harvard for 2011.  They were at 11% in 2007.   For the 2008-2009 academic year, Cooper received a 20% increase in applications, lowering its acceptance rate significantly.  The school also experienced a 70% increase in early decision applications for the 2009–2010 academic year.  Cooper was named by Newsweek Magazine as the "#1 Most Desirable Small School" and "#7 Most Desirable School" overall.  The estimated value of tuition over 4 years for Cooper is $140,000 as of 2010.  It appears the quality product the school produces is high:

Wikipedia notes:

With fewer than 1,000 students, Alumni of the Cooper Union win a vastly disproportionate share of the nation’s most prestigious awards. Recent awards include 1 Nobel Prize, 10 Rome Prizes, 18 Guggenheim fellowships, 3 MacArthur fellowships, 9 Chrysler Design awards, and 3 American Institute of Architects Thomas Jefferson Awards for Public Architecture. The school also boasts more than 23 Fulbright scholars since 2001, and 10 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships since 2004.

The Catch? So what is the catch?  Too good to be true?  Well, Cooper does not cover room and board, which costs roughly $14,000 per year in New York; then there are mandatory student fees ($1,600 per year), books and supplies ($1,000-1,800 per year), and general living expenses ($2,000-3,000 per year).  These costs total roughly $18,600 – $20,400 per year. In addition, international students are assessed a $1,750 per year filing fee. All students must evidence medical insurance coverage or participate in the school’s medical insurance plan for a health services fee of $1,629/year.  Cooper’s SAT scores are:

  • SAT Critical Reading: 590  (25% percentile) / 710 (75% percentile)
  • SAT Math: 600 / 770
  • SAT Writing: 600 / 700

Another "catch" in addition to being very difficult to get into is that Cooper is not as well known as Harvard, Princeton, or Yale, or even Amherst or Williams.

Cooper is not the only free college you can choose from.  A host of other free colleges such as Alice Lloyd College which is featured below, offer a variety of choices, including academic rigor, location, school size, curriculum focus, and selectivity.  For a LIST OF FREE COLLEGES, click here.

Alice Lloyd College.  Alice Lloyd Colles (9% in 2010 acceptance rate according to US News and World Report) is another free tuition college with a low acceptance rate (ahead of every big name school except Harvard, Yale, and Stanford).  Its a small Liberal Arts College (550 students) located in Pippa Passes, Kentucky.  Alice Lloyd’s acceptance rate in 2007 is listed much higher at 43%, but it has since seen an increase in applications and become much more desirable and selective.  Students must participate in a work study program for at least 10 hours per week in exchange for free tuition.  Room and board costs up to $4,300, but students who need additional financial aid to pay for room and board may work up to 15 hours per week.   Applicants must score a minimum of 430 verbal and 400 math on their SAT and must have at least a 2.25 GPA (grade point average) in pre-college curriculum courses.

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