These 4-year colleges offer free tuition — but there's a catch

Tuition-free college may be a focus of the 2020 presidential campaign, but it can seem like a pipe dream to many students.

Though there are community colleges that offer free tuition, it is rare for a four-year school to offer free tuition without securing scholarships, grants or utilizing other special programs.

However, there are a handful of four-year schools that will pay for school — just as long as the students work.

There are nine so-called “work colleges," where working is part of the education program. Of those, there are only three that offer free tuition, according to a new report from NerdWallet.

According to a survey by PayScale, about two-thirds of college graduates said they regretted something about their education — and student loans were the most common issue.

With student loan debt up to $1.6 trillion as of Q1 2019, according to Federal Reserve data, it could be worth looking into these colleges that offer to "foot the bill" and avoid the regret of taking on student loans.

Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, Ky.

In order to get free tuition from Alice Lloyd College, students must be from one of 108 counties in the central region of the Appalachian mountains, including counties in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Students must work a minimum of 10 hours a week and 160 hours a semester. There are 14 departments they can work in, including building maintenance, resident advisors, library assistants and at the campus post office. According to the school’s website, students are paid minimum wage.

Aside from free tuition, students at Alice Lloyd College do have to pay for room and board, matriculation fees, books and other expenses, according to the website.

Berea College in Berea, Ky.

Berea College promises students they won’t have to pay their tuition. They are expected to pay for housing, meals and other fees, but that costs an average of $1,000, according to the school’s website.

Students at the private, liberal arts college are expected to work a minimum of 10 hours a week and can work in more than 130 departments, according to the school.

College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Mo.

College of the Ozarks is a Christian liberal arts college where students work 15 hours a week in more than 80 “work areas,” the school’s site says.


Students will also be required to work two 40-hour work weeks each school year and, if they want to cover room and board, they can work 6 weeks for every semester over summer breaks.

Fox Business’ James Leggate contributed to this report.