Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders made a big deal about making college free during this past election.  What most people don’t realize is that college in the US is already free, but not the way Bernie sees it.  I went to college free: from my BS, to my MBA, through my Ph.D. – FREE.  My daughter goes to college for … FREE, and my wife graduated from Harvard for … (almost) FREE.  Over the last 12 months, I’ve helped over 100 students go to college for … FREE.

The difference is that politicians see college as an entitlement paid by the government.  I went to college for FREE using the “free market, capitalist, work for yourself” way.  I did it through good grades, high test scores, and seeking opportunities for money for college.  There are ways to do it… go to college free from College of the Ozarks to Harvard University; there are ways to go FREE.

The free market has already provided mechanisms to go to college free, without a bigger federal bureaucracy controlling college education.  You just have to do what college bound students are supposed to do – work hard, get good grades, and get high test scores.  Many colleges are happy to give you scholarships if you are a good student.

So let’s start with colleges that are actually free.  (US News & World Report Ranking)

  • Alice Lloyd College (#40 Best Regional Colleges in the South) – students work 160 hours a semester.
  • Barclay College – Quaker college for ministry.
  • Berea College (#76 National Liberal Arts College) – students work at least 10 hours a week.
  • College of the Ozarks (#10 Best Regional Colleges in the Midwest) students work 15 hours a week.
  • Curtis Institute of Music – only 165 students all on full scholarships
  • Deep Springs College – 2 year college, student work 20 hours a week.
  • Macaulay Honors College – City University of New York – full scholarship for New York residents
  • Webb Institute – Naval Architecture & Marine Engineering, only 90 students all on full scholarships

Now for colleges that waive tuition based on income, if your income is below a certain amount, tuition is waived.  You might have heard of these:

  • Cornell (<$60,000)
  • Duke (<$60,000 and scaled after that))
  • Harvard (<$60,000 and scaled to 10% of income up to $150,000)
  • MIT (<$75,000)
  • Princeton (<$140,000 with <$60,000 includes room & board)
  • Stanford (<120,000)
  • Yale (<$65,000)
  • Texas A&M (<$60,000)

Another thing, in Texas, where I live, there are 19 state colleges that waive tuition if the income is below $25,000 to $65,000.  We worked with a public school district in Texas, took 100 of their juniors who were on subsidized lunch, and had 83 of them qualified for full tuition for at least two colleges by the end of their junior year!

Now for colleges that offer BIG Scholarships based on scores, class rank, and GPA:  These offers apply to out of state students, too.

  • Louisiana Tech – 32 ACT, 3.0 – full tuition, fees
  • Louisiana Monroe – 32 ACT, 3.7 – full tuition, fees, room & board
  • Louisiana Lafayette – 32 ACT, 3.0 – full tuition, fees, room & board, campus job, laptop computer
  • Xavier University – 28 ACT, 3.8 – full tuition, fees, room & board, $1000 book voucher
  • Lamar University – 28 ACT – full tuition, fees, room & board, books
  • University of Texas at Dallas – 32 ACT – full tuition +$1000; 34 ACT – full tuition +$6000
  • University of Alabama (Yeah, that one – Crimson Tide!) – 32 ACT, 3.5 – full tuition
  • Auburn University – 33 ACT, 3.5 – full tuition

Accurate as of date of publication.

There are hundreds more, but I’m out of space.

The military has the best overall colleges and scholarships.  The five service academies are free (West Point, Annapolis, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine), plus the Army, Navy, and Air Force provide ROTC scholarships that cover full tuition, fees, books, plus a monthly stipend to attend civilian colleges.  These are highly competitive.

So college can be free if you do it the old fashioned way – you EARN it.

By the way, I attended TCU on an Army ROTC scholarship (full tuition, etc.), got my Masters at Oklahoma City University going to college at night while I was on active duty and the Army paid for it, and I got my Ph.D. from the University of Texas-Arlington with the GI Bill – so I went for free.  My wife went to community college and was Phi Theta Kappa, the junior college honor society, and transferred to Harvard (yes, THAT Harvard) and received the Phi Theta Kappa scholarship that covered full tuition.  I paid $411 for her first semester.  Our biggest expense was the apartment in Cambridge – so “almost” free.  My daughter is at Texas Tech University on the Presidential Scholarship, qualified for a special tuition waiver, and received 2 grants and we pay nothing for her college.

College is already free for those willing to do the work.  Your way, people don’t have to work for it, so the achievement means nothing when you don’t have to earn it.  It breeds mediocrity and a dependent society.  The founding fathers never saw the government as the great grandpa in the sky paying for college.

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