How to go to college for free

@Money

Elite athletes have long gotten free rides at schools with top sports teams. And many schools offer full-tuition scholarships for especially outstanding students. But you don't necessarily have to be a football star or math genius to get a higher education for next to nothing.

In fact, even the most expensive colleges are personalizing their prices for students depending on their financial situation and talents. Ivy League colleges, for example, generally offer completely free educations to students from families earning less than about $60,000.

That makes it difficult to provide a general list of colleges that will be free for you. (You can try to estimate your net cost at any particular school using MONEY's calculator). But we can tell you which colleges offer free tuition for all students all of the time.

Alice Lloyd College: Students from the Appalachian region get free tuition at this Pippa Passes, Ky., liberal arts college in return for at least 10 hours a week of work. Students must fund their own living expenses.

Berea College: This Kentucky college generally only admits students from low-income families. It provides all admitted students with full-tuition scholarships. Every student is also offered a paying part-time job. Students are responsible for living costs, however.

College of the Ozarks: Students work off their tuition at this Point Lookout, Mo., liberal arts college. Students have to fund their own living costs.

Cooper Union: This New York City college specializing in art, architecture and engineering offers full-tuition scholarships to all admitted students. Students are responsible for living costs, however.

Curtis Institute of Music: This Philadelphia music college offers full tuition scholarships to all admitted students. Students are responsible for living costs, however.

Deep Springs College: This free two-year "cowboy college" in the California-Nevada desert generally admits only 13 students a year. (Currently all-male, it has announced it may start admitting women for the first time in 2013.) Along with traditional liberal arts classes, students work on a ranch. Many graduates have transferred to Ivy League schools. Students pay only for their travel to the school and incidentals.

Macaulay Honors College at CUNY: This New York City public college offers top students from anywhere free tuition (but not fees), plus a Macbook laptop and $7,500 in funding for research, study abroad or special projects. Students must fund living costs, however.

Military service academies: The competition is fierce, and the workload is brutal, but the Air Force, Coast Guard, Military and Naval academies offer free top-notch educations and living stipends in return for, typically, at least five years of full-time service.

Webb Institute: If you're passionate about naval architecture and marine engineering, this small specialty college in Glen Cove, NY, will teach you everything you need to know, tuition-free. Students are responsible for funding living costs and buying a computer and software.

International colleges: If you can study in foreign languages such as German, Norwegian or Finnish, you may be able to win admission to tuition-free foreign schools.

How to find free college courses

If you don't care about getting credit or a diploma, there are thousands of free classes that will teach you something new.

  • Public libraries offer many free classes, ranging from computer skills to language to business.
  • Top schools such as MIT, Stanford, Yale and others are increasingly offering free online courses including videotaped lectures and reading lists. They offer a clearinghouse of free online courses.
  • Many colleges post lectures on iTunes that are free to download.
  • Some colleges will allow some students to audit (i.e. sit in on lectures but not participate in tests) for free.

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