Close Close

Planning for College

These 11 Counties and Cities Offer Tuition-Free College Programs

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

(Related: Top 8 Direct-Sold 529 Plans:

Families looking for affordable college options may want to consider free tuition programs available to the residents of many cities and communities across the country.

These programs tend to be less well-known than state-financed tuition-free programs, primarily cover tuition costs and not room and board, books or other expenses and are not necessarily limited to community college enrollments. 

The San Francisco Promise program, for example, is available for graduates of the San Francisco Unified School District who enroll in San Francisco State University.

Most of these tuition-free college programs require local residency for a certain period of time, often including graduation from a local public high school; minimum grade point averages (GPAs) at high school graduation; and a family income below a certain level, but there are exceptions.

The Say Yes to Education Syracuse, for example, available to graduate of public or charter high schools in the upstate New York city and legal refugees, offers scholarships to pay of tuition costs not covered by other grants and scholarships and opportunity grants for students who have already received the maximum Federal Pell Grant, but also “choice grants” to students whose annual family income exceeds $75,000. Moreover those grants can be used to pay for costs at one of about 100 private colleges that participates in the Say Yes Higher Education Compact.

Within the need-based scholarships there are two primary types: Last-dollar, which fills the funding gap between a student’s resources to pay tuition and the tuition cost itself; and first-dollar scholarships, which are often flat amounts and don’t take into account other financial aid. Most of these local-based scholarships fall under the last dollar category., a website designed to educate families about financing college costs, lists 34 local tuition-free programs in 19 different states. You can see a sampling of 11 of these programs in the slide show above.

— Related on ThinkAdvisor: