If education is a ticket to a better life, it sometimes makes very little sense to jump into a pool of education loans, and lifelong debts, to gain your right to knowledge. Though it may be justified in the instance of a professional course, like an MBA degree, where the gains of a well-founded business degree reaps immediate benefits, it does bring out a moral debate on why should an investment, like knowledge, be chargeable to its seekers.
Clearly a moral judgement is easier to pass when you don’t have to dwell into the financing that keeps the machine running. Of course, it is true that the tuition, that students pay up, goes into resourcing the institution with teachers, equipment, and the funding for sustaining it.
However, there are occasions when such a financing is taken up by the government, or other funding agencies, keeping the burden of the financial costs away from the shoulders of the students.
In this article, we will explore some of the countries, and the universities, that have ready-made options available to students, to obtain a degree, undergraduate or postgraduate, without having to pay extravagant tuition fees. We will largely focus on opportunities for both domestic and international students.
List of Tuition free universities in the world
Tuition free universities in the United States of America (USA)
Degrees predominantly come with a hefty price tag, in the US. State schools are sometimes a bit more forgiving to students who have a domicile of origin in the state that the school belongs to. But in the end, whether private or public, university education is certainly a matter of financial concern (Read Cost of MS in the US).
However, if you were to focus on just undergraduate studies, the two year Community Colleges can be a far more affordable means to get into the US educational system. These two year colleges are often Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified and are nationally accredited. Their annual tuition is of the order $3,000 as compared to the three times higher annual cost of university tuition.
The added advantage, for such colleges, is the ability to transfer their credits over to well known universities. According to US News, certain well known community colleges often have guaranteed admissions to universities, upon completion of the first two years with a required grade point average (GPA). Some of the well known Community Colleges are listed below.
- De Anza College (usually transfers UC Davis, UCLA, and Berkeley)
- Orange Coast College (transfers to University of California, UCLA, Berkeley, Columbia, Cornell, John Hopkins, MIT, etc)
- Meridian Community College
- Normandale Community College
- Hutchinson Community College
- Green River Community College
The list is big, and with over a thousand colleges it is a good idea to explore the tuition, opportunities for international students, their graduation, and transfer rates to four year universities.
Besides these community colleges, there are certain colleges that offer free education in exchange for student work programs.
- Alice Lloyd College: Tuition is free for students from the Appalachian region of the US. For International students, however, the student work-study program provides some, not all, of the tuition relief.
- Berea College: It awards a Tuition Promise Scholarship to all its enrolled students, resident and international, for the first year of enrolment. Students work at least 10 hours a week for a modest wage.
- Curtis Institute of Music: Students are given a full tuition scholarship, based solely on merit. Students pay a fee of around $2,000 plus charges for health care. During Covid, an additional amount is charged for health and safety.
- Deep Springs College: Students, whether international or domestic, are engaged in a work study program that essentially compensates for tuition. However, their class sizes are limited to about 15, making it difficult to crack. Though only open to admissions for men traditionally, since 2018 Deep Springs has begun admitting women as well.
As far as domestic students are concerned, there are colleges associated with the US defense such as Naval Academy, Military Academy, Coast Guard Academy, and so on that provide a degree free of cost. Schools like the Webb Institute offers free tuition, and admission, to only American students. Certain colleges, with a religious bend, also provide subsidized education to students of their faith in exchange for a work study curriculum.
Apart from the aforementioned, a number of well known universities offer financial relief enrolments to students from low income families. Let us list them out for completeness.
- Cornell University: Cornell has its set of grants that don’t need repayment, work study programs that employ students part-time to earn towards education, and loans with deferred repayment plans. Undergraduate applicants with family income less than $60,000, and net assets under $100,000 are eligible for a full loan in aid package with zero contribution from parents for the annual cost left beyond the above financial aid schemes. Financial reliefs are also available to international students.
- Stanford University: They award a “zero parent contribution” aid for students with family income less than $75,000.
- MIT: Undergraduate students with family income less than $75,000 are eligible for tuition free scholarship.
- Duke University: Tuition free for students with family income of less than $60,000.
- Harvard University: Tuition is free for students with family income less than $65,000 with varying parent contribution from subsequent income brackets.
Other well-known big university names include Princeton, Texas A&M, University of Michigan, and more.
For graduate students, there is always a way to explore scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and grants that help ease the pocket pain. Read List of MBA scholarships for Indian Students, GMAT MBA Scholarships and articles related to MBA financing, for instance.
Tuition free universities in Brazil
Public universities, in Brazil, are usually tuition free. Undergraduate and certain post graduate (Strict Sense qualifications like Masters, Professional Masters and Doctorate) studies are paid for by the government, making them tuition free for both domestic and international students.
Post Graduate degrees, defined as Lato Sensu or wide sense in specialist professional fields, are not tuition free. Brazil, with its reasonable cost of living, and universities that are ranked among the top few hundred in the world – University of Sao Paolo showing up between 91-100 in Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings – is perhaps one of those study abroad destinations that deserves a good glance.
The eligibility requirements often require an entrance examination (Vestibular examination), but the trouble is quite worth the pain. And yes, a proficiency certificate in Portuguese is also a must.
Here is a list of some of the top public universities that let you come out shining and debt free.
- University of Sao Paolo
- Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UniCamp)
- Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)
- Universidade Estadual Paulista “Julio de Mesquita Filho” (UNESP)
- Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG)
- Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sui (UFRGS)
Frankly, if you like quality in education, the beach, the samba, the festivals, and the birth place of football legends, the lack of a financing headache should only serve as the icing on this carnival cake.
Tuition free universities in Europe
The list of countries, offering free university education, is rather large. To save you the trouble of organizing the information, we have a separate article for Tuition free Universities in Europe.
While the above prescription can ease your money pains, there are still a number of countries that deserve a mention. India and Taiwan are known to be excellent study destinations for quality qualifications at a low cost. You are advised to explore the aforementioned options for a match that best suits your needs.
It is often a good idea to write to the admissions contact for information on tuition relief while citing your financial needs. Research, and a thorough investigation, are the key to aid your aid. Needless to say, government policies and university approach towards tuition can be dynamic.