Is It Possible to Get a College Degree That’s Tuition-Free? Yes!

Over the last three decades, the cost of higher education has risen steadily. Over the past 20 years, the cost of going to college was something that almost everyone could afford and pay off easily. Since that time tuition costs have ballooned by a staggering 157%!

According to the average college graduate has on average $27,975 in student loans and the figure continues to go up each year. U.S. News and World Report estimates the cost of going to a private college at over $42,000 by the time a student receives their diploma. Such high debt can also take a bite out of personal health in terms of mental health.

However, some European countries, such as France, Germany, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Slovenia, have made going to college free for most students. Now some state and city governments within the United States have seen the value of investing in the future by also providing tuition-free college at some two-year and even for some four-year colleges and universities. San Francisco, New York, and Tennessee were early champions of providing tuition-free college education for low-income students. Currently, there are 12 states that offer tuition-free college with an additional 10 states which have taken up the matter for consideration within their state legislatures.

While the idea of free tuition is great news for new college students or those returning to school later in life can be good news, it does little to help those who already have student loan debt.

Nearly a decade ago, Congress chose to disallow college loans to be among the types of debt that could be discharged in a bankruptcy. In the fall of 2017, some members of Congress proposed doing away with the tax deduction that allowed students to deduct a significant amount of the interest that students paid on their student loans from their taxes each year.

According to attorney David McKenzie, founder of McKenzie Law Firm, that would have been debilitating for those students. “Doing away with that above the line deduction was proposed in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Thankfully because students and institutions objected to that, students are still able to deduct up to $2,500 a year for the interest on their student loans.”

If You Qualify…

Some of the states that offer free college tuition have specific sets of standards for levels of income; maintaining full-time student status, a minimum GPA, and residency requirements both before enrollment and after graduation in order to qualify for education to be tuition-free. Other states and institutions may also place additional requirements on students.

According to Nerd Wallet, the state of Arkansas, for example, requires that students enroll in a high-demand field of study or STEM field, complete a minimum of 8 hours of community service and work full time in the state for 3 years after graduation or the tuition would be converted to a loan to be repaid to the state.

If you are considering college, it may be worth the time to see what the requirements are for states that offer free or reduced tuition as a strategy to avoid the rising costs of tuition. You might have to live in the state for a while to meet residency requirements, but taking a “gap year” is common in other countries and considering the potential cost savings, it could be well worth it!

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Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.