Tuition-Free College: Here’s Where It’s Offered in 2017 By Stephanie Lynch

As of late, you may have noticed some states are starting to offer tuition-free college.  Yes, that’s right – free, and the issue began when, at the time, President Obama suggested creating a no-cost community college initiative in 2015.





During this time, the concept did sound far-fetched, but the idea started to generate more buzz in 2016 when Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders threw out their support for the idea as well.  Unfortunately, the Republicans, at this time, haven’t offered the most support.

Over the past three years, three states and one city have enacted measures, and lawmakers in other places across the United States are thinking of doing the same.

And the best part?

It’s starting to pick up steam as more lawmakers across the country are thinking about considering similar initiatives as well.

How Free College Tuition Works

In many of the states enacting this plan, the free tuition will be offered like a scholarship, covering the costs of the tuition after utilizing any available grants.  Also, depending on the plans, some may have age restrictions and/or income restrictions.

While the word free sounds enticing, it doesn’t necessarily mean a student will be able to attend college for nothing.  All of the extra fees, such as orientation, housing, books and technology fees, may be incurred.

And yes, tuition, even if free to the students, won’t be free to the taxpayer as most will be responsible in most states.  Tennessee, for example, relies on the state’s lottery system to fund its free community college plan.

Where Free College Tuition Stands as of 2017

New York

New York, as of late, became the very first to offer a tuition-free option at a four-year institution.  Beginning in the fall of 2017, undergraduate students won’t have to spend a dime to attend a state-based or city-based university.

However, there will be restrictions:  Students with families who were earning $125,000 or more per year won’t be eligible, and a student can’t have a previous degree.  Even though there won’t be an age limit, students, at a minimum, must enroll full-time and need to reside and work a job in the state for the equivalent amount of years the student used the scholarship.

This program, according to the state, will cost close to $163 million during the first year, gradually increasing as more residents use it annually.


Community college students, who attended during the fall months in 2016 were considered the very first students to take advantage of the state’s scholarship, a scholarship which covered most of the tuition for incoming high school students.

Those who wanted to take advantage needed to be a resident for a year, at a minimum, and earned a GPA greater than 2.5 during high school.  To keep it active, students need to attend part-time.

This plan, according to the state, will cost close to $11 million per year.

San Francisco

San Francisco, not the entire state of California, will be offering its students the opportunity to attend community college for free, starting in the fall of 2017.

This program, unlike most, has no restrictions and is available to every resident, no matter the age or income, and even if you have a prior degree, you can still take advantage.  Plus, if that’s not enough, it offers underprivileged students extra cash to assist with additional costs.

In order to pay for it, they are raising a real estate transfer tax on higher-end properties to help compensate the scholarship, expecting to cost the city $5 million per year for the next two years.


Beginning in 2018, all students, including adults will become qualified for free tuition at any state community college and technical school as long as they don’t have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.  This program is an expansion of the already-in-place program that started in 2015, only offering high school students the opportunity to attend community college at no charge.

As for the restrictions, students must be state residents for a minimum of a year before applying, and to keep the scholarship active, they must enroll part-time, at a minimum, maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete a minimum of eight hours of community service per semester.

The program, according to the state, will cost $12 million in the first year and $10 million a year after to include the new coming adult students.

Arkansas, Minnesota and South Dakota

These three states are also offering a grant program for select students who are studying an in-demand area of education like technology.  Starting this fall, as long as you’re studying an in-demand field, there’s a good chance your tuition will be covered as long as the restrictions are met in these states.

The high cost of college is often a reason many don’t attend.  Let’s hope, as time goes on, more and more states offer community college for free to help those who don’t want to stress about the finances.

Stephanie Lynch is a freelance writer who resides in Gilbert, Arizona.  As a cost advocate, she started, a database designed to help consumers find out what the “unknowns” cost in life.

Stephanie Lynch is a freelance writer who resides in Gilbert, Arizona.  As a cost advocate, she started, a database designed to help consumers find out what the “unknowns” cost in life.