Flashback Friday: 5 Ways to Go to College Tuition Free or Really Cheap!
August 29, 2014
Looking for cheap or tuition free college options?

Looking for cheap or tuition free college options?
Image source: Flickr CC user COD Newsroom

If you’re in college, thinking about going back to school to finish your degree or considering a new degree for a career change, borrowing to pay for your education may be a worry. With student loan debt increasing $2,850 every second and default rates climbing, what if you could finish your education – or get more – without racking up debt? Wouldn’t it be great to find tuition free programs or really cheap alternatives to continue your education?

We’ve researched some programs that can help you gain some higher learning with no high price tag. Depending on where you live and work, you may be near one of these programs or may be able to find a similar program in your area. Oscar Wilde said, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” As a die-hard jeans and t-shirt enthusiast, I take issue with Wilde’s fashion advice, but I agree wholeheartedly that education is a great thing. Check out these five cheap and tuition free programs to get your school on for less:

#1 Competency Based Degrees – Cheap

The state of Wisconsin has implemented a new program where you can receive your college degree with no or few classes based solely on competency. The program is run through testing and the test can be taken whenever the student feels they have the skills to pass the exam. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker issued a report on the program that stated, “Students can demonstrate college-level competencies — no matter where they learned the material — as soon as they can prove that they know it.” Called the Flexible Degree, the University of Wisconsin system allows degrees to be completed in a short time and with no classes depending on your experience. Northern Arizona University has also launched a program to offer competency based degrees in business administration, information technology and liberal studies. The program incurs a flat fee to complete and is drastically cheaper than normal tuition.

#2 Straighter Line College – Really Cheap

How about college for $99 a month or $900 a year? That’s a bargain rate education! StraighterLine is a college subscription service where you can take your first two years of core courses completely online at drastically cheap rates. And like a Costco of education, StraighterLine offers bigger discounts if you buy in bulk. A complete freshman year bundle with 46 classes to choose from costs just $1299. You complete your core work through StraighterLine and then can transfer your credits to a four year college to complete your degree. In addition to a roster of partner universities guaranteed to transfer in the credits, their website offers a complete list of non-partner schools their students have successfully transferred credits to.


#3 University of the People – Tuition Free

University of the People offers tuition free two and four year degrees in Business Administration and Computer Science. This completely online university is supported by New York University, Yale, the United Nations and Hewlett-Packard. It is currently unaccredited, but that doesn’t always matter depending on why you need your degree. If you want to teach or practice law or medicine, you’ll need a degree from an accredited college, but if it’s just a stumbling block to a promotion or you want a degree because you always meant to finish college, this could be a great program for you. The program can be used by people in the US and around the world for free coursework. There is a nominal application fee and end of exam fees are $100 per course. UoP is pursuing accreditation through the US Department of Education, so hopefully that will come online in the future as well.

#4 College Works Program – Tuition Free

If you are a working adult in San Francisco, Oakland or Sacramento, California whose employer offers tuition assistance, you can get your degree for absolutely free from UniversityNow through New Charter University or Patten University. Hundreds of thousands of adult workers in this region have this benefit but haven’t used it because they worry it won’t cover all of the costs and don’t want to incur debt. Employers allot between $1,500-$5,250 per year for tuition assistance. UniversityNow has launched a plan that will allow anyone with this benefit to get their degree with no out of pocket costs! This is an amazing offer. Sacramento’s mayor Kevin Johnson said, “Due to cutbacks in public higher education funding, earning a college degree is out of reach for many working adults. I am excited that UniversityNow can offer Sacramento City residents and workers access to its quality online degree programs, cutting-edge learning platform and committed faculty — at no cost to the student.”

#5 Federal Pell Grant Program – Tuition Free

If you are unemployed and qualify, you can get a maximum of $5,550 per year in the form of a Pell Grant to pay for college. In many cases, if you manage your money wisely, you may be able to use this to attend college tuition free. This is part of a larger program of benefits the government has launched to help the unemployed. You must have income below a set threshold and not already have a four year degree. You also cannot be in default on any existing student loans and have not been convicted of the sale or possession of an illegal drug while receiving Federal financial aid.

If you think you could be eligible for any of these great programs, you can follow the links to get more information! An education is a great thing – a free one is even better. Even if you’re already borrowing money to finance your education, if you can use one of these tools to reduce your costs, you’ll graduate in much less debt and that’s an even better thing.