30 Top Free Tuition College Scholarships (Publicly-Funded)

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A fire is catching in the U.S. concerning free tuition college scholarships, also known as College Promise Programs, pushing more states, cities, counties and private organizations to create their own free-tuition scholarships for college or expand upon existing ones.

In our previous article of this series, “Top Statewide Promise Scholarships for College,” we highlighted and reviewed 21 of the existing scholarships for college that states offer to their eligible residents. However, there are a number of other statewide, countywide and citywide College Promise scholarship programs that are publicly funded, privately funded or a mix of the two. And more are popping up each month. In 2018, states like Maryland and New Jersey have proposed or signed legislation to install their own free tuition scholarship programs by next year.

Even the federal government’s Education Department is jumping onto the free college bandwagon by designating $5 million to create a pilot program for free, open-source textbooks. Congress signed the bill into law in March, and the Department began taking applications late July. With textbook costs weighing heavily over students’ heads across the country, this program could save them millions of dollars.

On a smaller level of public/government funding, the wide variety of College Promise scholarship programs that are already in place offer different levels of coverage with diverse eligibility stipulations. Many of the statewide programs grant access to free four-year degree programs, while some of the county and citywide scholarships are only good up to an associate’s degree. Some have strict merit requirements while others have income caps. Some only cover fees while others can cover tuition, fees, textbooks and transportation. Because of some of these varied stipulations, certain programs have received flack. Regardless, we think it’s important to recognize them, hopefully catching the attention of anyone who might qualify for the program’s aid, but aren’t aware of its existence.

As in the last article, we used the College Promise Campaign’s database as our research starting point. We collected a list of the remaining publicly funded College Promise scholarship programs that are active. We analyzed each program based on its eligibility requirements; award amount; degree type coverage; number of two- and four-year colleges that accept the award; accessibility for nontraditional students; timeline limits; funding type; and additional program offerings like mentoring or a volunteer service requirement. We then ranked them using a point system detailed below:

  • First-, Middle-, or Last-Dollar Funding: First (3 points); Middle or Last Dollar Plus (1 point)
  • Range of Costs Covered: Coverage beyond tuition and fees (4 points); Tuition/fees for a bachelor’s degree (3 points); Tuition/fees for an associate’s degree (2 points); Award funds can be used for graduate-level courses (an additional 2 points)
  • Eligibility Requirements: Merit requirement is a 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale (2 points); >2.5 GPA required (-1 point); DACA students can apply (3 points); Post-college in-state residency requirement (-1)
  • Timeline Limitations: Part- or half-time students are eligible (3 points); Award funds cover summer and/or winter terms (2); Students have more than four years to complete a bachelor’s or more than two years to complete an associate’s/certificate (1 point); Available only to recent high school grads (-1)*
  • School Choice: More than three schools accept the program funding (3 points); More than one school accepts funding (1 point); At least one four-year college/university accepts funding (1 point); Award recipient must be in a certain type of degree or technical program (-1 point)
  • Program Extras: Award recipients also receive mentoring or guidance counseling (2 points); Recipients must complete volunteer work (1 point); Award funds will rise–or fall–to match participating schools’ tuition rates (2 points); Additional services offered to recipients (1 point each)

*Students must enroll in college one year or less post high school graduation.

30. ECC Accelerated College Program in Algonquin, IL

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The ECC Accelerated College Program offers a tuition-free dual credit program for high school students in Algonquin, IL.

Points: 3

The ECC Accelerated College Program is a full-time “Accelerate College Dual Credit Program” that funds two semesters at Elgin Community College for Algonquin high school students (Dundee-Crown High School, Hampshire High School, Jacobs High School, St. Charles East or St. Charles North High School). Tuition and fees are sponsored by the high school districts, but students are responsible for all other expenses, including transportation.

Different pathways are available for juniors and seniors to maximize the number of obtainable college credits before high school graduation. All awardees receive guidance and academic advising to select courses and Monthly Student Success Workshops at ECC. Courses are pre-selected, and students are expected to have an unweighted 3.0 GPA to be eligible.

29. Prince George’s Community College Promise in Prince George’s County, MD

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The Prince George’s Community College Promise scholarship program allows recent high school graduates one full year of school, tuition-free.

Points: 4

The Prince George’s Community College Promise became available in 2018, offering coverage of tuition and mandatory fees for two semesters (up to 30 credit hours) at Prince George’s Community College. The application is available year-round. Students can apply as associate’s degree seekers, enrolling in a minimum of 12 credits and maintaining a 2.5 GPA per semester, or licensure/certification seekers who will enroll in workforce programs.

Eligibility requirements include the following:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, as well as a resident of Prince George’s County
  • Graduate from high school as early as June 2017 and be a first-time college student enrolling for fall 2018 semester
  • Complete the FAFSA every year and ACCUPLACER exams (associate’s seekers)
  • Successfully complete degree within three years of receiving the award (associate’s)
  • Exhibit progress as determined by the course/Program assessments (licensure/certification seekers)

28. Garrett County Scholarship in Maryland

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The Garrett County Scholarship program offers local high school seniors and recent high school graduates the opportunity to earn a tuition-free associate’s degree or occupational training program.

Points: 4

Eligible recent high school graduates of Garrett County, MD can take advantage of the Garrett County Scholarship (formerly known as the Commissioners’ Scholarship Program, or CSP) to pursue occupational training or an associate’s degree. This college scholarship program will cover tuition and fees for required developmental courses in addition to a maximum of 64 credit hours. Dual-enrolled students can also receive up to eight credit hours per semester. All other students must enroll at Garrett College full-time for the fall semester immediately following high school graduation. All applicants must first obtain admission to GC. They must have been a legally documented resident of Garrett County for a period of two full years prior to the date of high school graduation.

In 2010, this scholarship program was expanded to include certain occupational training programs offered by the College’s Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Development. Occupational training students in the following programs can use the award to cover the cost of course fees, course material and certification testing fees:

  • Welding
  • Certified nursing assistant
  • CNC machining
  • Medical coding
  • Truck driving (CDL)
  • Veterinary assistant

27. Dyer County Promise in Dyer County, TN

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The Dyer County Promise scholarship for high school students will fund four semesters at a community college or tech school.

Points: 4

Established in 2007, Tennessee’s Dyer County Promise is one of the few first-dollar funding scholarships on this list. It covers four semesters at Dyersburg State Community College or the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Newbern through a $675 maximum award per year. The be eligible, applicants must have been a resident of Dyer County for the 12 months before enrollment at DSCC or the TCAT, or 12 months prior to passing the GED.

Other program requirements are:

  • Complete the FAFSA annually
  • Enroll at DSCC the first semester post high school graduation (summer excluded)
  • Maintain continuous enrollment as a full-time students with at least 12 semester hours of college-level or Learning Support classes
  • Successfully complete a minimum of nine semester hours with a 2.0 GPA at the end of the first semester with grades of A, B, C, D or P
  • Successfully complete a minimum of 24 semester hours with a 2.0 GPA at the end of the second semester with a passing grade
  • Pass 36 semester hours by the end of the third semester with a 2.0 GPA

26. Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute Career and College Promise in North Carolina’s Caldwell and Watauga Counties

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The Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute Career and College Promise offers high school juniors and seniors the opportunity to graduate with a degree, diploma or certificate, tuition-free.

Points: 4

High school juniors and seniors of North Carolina’s Caldwell and Watauga counties may be eligible for the Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute Career and College Promise scholarship program. This offers tuition coverage for up to four semesters at Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute. To be eligible, students must have a weighted 3.0 GPA or higher and have earned a qualifying score on a college placement test. After completing two courses, award recipients are expected to maintain a 2.0 GPA in their college courses.

This program offers the following two pathways:

  • College Transfer Pathway: Students can achieve a general AA, an AA in visual arts, an Associate Degree Nursing or an AS. Every course they complete with at least a “C” will be accepted by all UNC member institutions and equated for lower division General Education credit at the university.
  • Technical Pathway: Students can earn a diploma or certificate aligned with a high school Career Cluster. Types of programs in this pathway include:
  • medical office administration
  • automotive systems technology
  • business administration
  • cosmetology
  • emergency management
  • mechanical engineering technology
  • culinary arts

25. Economic Impact Scholarship in Maryland’s Somerset and Wicomico Counties

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Recent high school graduates in Maryland’s Somerset and Wicomico Counties can earn up to an associate’s degree as full-time students at Wor-Wic Community College for free.

Points: 5

Maryland’s Economic Impact Scholarship spans across Somerset and Wicomico counties, allowing new high school graduates and Maryland High School Diploma completers to attend Wor-Wic Community College for free (covering tuition and fees). Recipients can use this award for up to six continuous full-time semesters if they’re earning at least 24 credit hours each academic year. If they earn an associate’s degree in less than that time, their award eligibility will end upon completion of the degree.

Eligibility requirements differ slightly between counties and are as follows:

  • Be a resident of either county and attend a public or private high school for at least two years
  • Complete all graduation requirements and apply for admission into a degree or certificate program at Wor-Wic
  • Complete the FAFSA and the SEIS or WEIS program applications
  • Attend an orientation and registration session before the beginning of the fall semester
  • Register for 12 or more credit hours (or fewer if required in a specific academic program) at Wor-Wic in the fall term immediately after graduation from high school
  • Avoid being convicted as a felon
  • For Wicomico residents, you must have an average household income of less than $75,000
  • Maintain a 2.0 GPA each semester you attend Wor-Wic

24. North Carolina Career and College Promise (CCP)

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The North Carolina Career and College Promise scholarships offer a variety of ways for high school students to earn associate’s degrees or start technical careers, tuition-free.

Points: 5

High school juniors and seniors in NC can take advantage of the Career and College Promise (CCP) program, which allows them a jumpstart for college or workplace training. The program offers three pathways:

  • College Transfer: Students can earn tuition-free course credits toward the Associate in Arts or Associate in Science. These will transfer seamlessly to any public or participating private college or university. This requires the completion of at least 30 semester hours of transfer courses including English and mathematics.
  • Technical Careers: Through NC Community College, students can earn tuition-free credit toward a job credential, certificate or diploma in a technical career.
  • Innovative High Schools: Students who are attending an approved Cooperative Innovative High School can begin earning tuition-free college credits on a college campus.

The application process varies among the different cooperating community colleges, but the number of courses you can take is unlimited as long as you complete your pathway first (summer semesters are included). Some of the college courses applicable toward high school graduation requirements, and all college courses will receive weighted credit! To be accepted into the Transfer and Technical programs, you’ll need a weighted 3.0 GPA, but you’re only required to earn a 2.0 after two college courses.

23. Buff Promise in Canyon, TX

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West Texas A&M University is known as one of the most affordable four-year residential institutions in the state, but the Buff Promise makes earning a bachelor’s degree there even cheaper!

Points: 5

Texans entering as full-time undergraduates at West Texas A&M University can utilize the Buff Promise to cover fall and spring in-state tuition and fees for up to eight semesters. Awardees must have an annual family income of $40,000, and they’re expected to earn 15-18 credit hours per semester. This free college scholarship is available to both entering freshmen and transfer students. It amounts to about $6,700 per year.

The application process is easy. Simply complete the FAFSA each year and list WTAMU. Apply to the university for admission and complete the university scholarship application. You’re expected to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress to continue receiving the award.

22. UTPB Falcon Promise in Texas

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Low-income students of any age in the state of Texas have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, thanks to this free tuition scholarship.

Points: 5

The UTPB Falcon Promise is a statewide program that offers last-dollar funding guaranteeing coverage of remaining tuition and mandatory fees for eligible Texas residents. To receive this Promise scholarship, students must be accepted for admission at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. They must also be full-time–earning 12-15 credits per semester–and degree-seeking in a residential undergraduate program (excludes online students).

To apply, you must file your FAFSA, which must verify that you’re within the program’s income cap. The family adjusted gross income cannot exceed $45,000. This award may not cover the summer term, but it offers low-income students, regardless of age, the chance to earn a full bachelor’s degree within eight semesters. Recipients are simply required to meet UTPB’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements and resubmit the FAFSA annually.

21. Wichita Promise in Kansas

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The Wichita Promise is one of the few tech school scholarship programs geared toward the geographical area’s high-demand jobs.

Points: 6

Established in 2016, the Wichita Promise pays tuition and fees at the WSU Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology for certificates leading to specific high-wage, high-demand jobs. It  provides training, credentials, certifications, and personal career coaching by WSU Tech’s Career Services department. It also includes a guaranteed job interview upon completion. This free community college scholarship is reserved for high school or GED graduates at least 17-years-old, who can maintain a full-time enrollment status and a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5. This includes nontraditional students. It’s not limited to recent high school graduates.

The eligible programs for Fall 2018 include the following:

  • CNC Operator, Technical Certificate
  • Composite Fabrication, Technical Certificate
  • Aviation Sheet Metal Mechanic, Technical Certificate
  • PRE-HEALTH FOR: Practical Nurse, Surgical Technology and Dental Assistant

20. Rochester Promise for the Rochester City School District in New York

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Students in the Rochester City School District can earn a four-year degree at the University of Rochester, tuition-free, thanks to the Rochester Promise.

Points: 6

The Rochester Promise offers graduates of Rochester public high schools, who enroll at the University of Rochester, up to $100,000 over four years to cover the cost of tuition. This scholarship covers all four years of college, as well as waiving the application processing fee. It’s for eligible first-year and transfer students who have graduated from and spent their last two years at a Rochester City School District public or publicly-chartered high school.

This college scholarship has an income cap. Applicants must come from households with incomes less than twice the area average. It is not reserved for recent high school graduates, and it does not have a specific merit requirement. However, applicants must gain admission to UR, and the average high school GPA among accepted students is 3.8.

19. Tulsa Achieves in Tulsa County, OK

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High school seniors in Tulsa County can receive up to 63 college credit hours for free through Tulsa Achieves, but they must complete a community service requirement.

Points: 6

Activated in 2007, the Tulsa Achieves college scholarship program offers full tuition and fees for up to 63 college credit hours or up to three years of college for every graduating high school senior in Tulsa County. To receive this award, you must apply as a high school senior and complete 40 hours of volunteer service each academic year in college. This service must be performed in Tulsa County and must benefit the community. This scholarship is specific to Tulsa Community College, but it is very part-time student friendly. It allows enrollment of as little as three credit hours per semester.

To receive this award, applicants must also:

  • graduate high school with a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale and commit to beginning college the following fall semester
  • reside in Tulsa County while in high school and maintain Tulsa County residency while in the program
  • earn a 1.7 GPA with 30 attempted credit hours or less, and then a 2.0 GPA with 31 attempted credit hours or more
  • complete at least 67% of attempted coursework, cumulatively
  • complete a FAFSA each year
  • complete the First Year Experience Seminar (COLL 1002)

18. Boston Bridge in Boston, MA

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The Boston Bridge college scholarship program offers free community college and a free bachelor’s degree, but it comes with strict stipulations.

Points: 6

Established in 2017, the Boston Bridge college scholarship program is considered a pilot, offering tuition and mandatory fees coverage for four years at Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community College, Mass Bay Community College, and any UMass campus or Massachusetts state university. The “bridge” aspect of this program refers to the fact that recipients (recent high school graduates in Boston) can take advantage of two college scholarship programs:

  • the Tuition-Free Community College Plan
  • the Commonwealth Commitment.

This allows students to attend community college for free with an additional financial contribution each semester to help with school-related expenses , as well as finish out the final two years of their bachelor’s degree program with tuition and fees covered.

You must apply to Boston Bridge at the same time as the Tuition-Free Community College Plan program You’ll have 2.5 years to complete your associate’s degree before transferring to a state public college or university. Additional eligibility requirements include:

  • Receive your high school credential within 12 months of starting the plan
  • Have a grade-point average of at least 2.0 and then maintain at least a 3.0 GPA in college
  • Be eligible for a Pell Grant, as determined by the FAFSA
  • Require no more than three developmental courses by the start of the semester
  • Have low to moderate household income
  • Have no more than 15 community college credits to start
  • Attend school full-time continuously to complete your bachelor’s degree within two years
  • Commit to one of the 16 eligible majors, like biology, business and early childhood education

17. Embark (formerly Early College for ME) in Maine

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The college scholarship award from Embark is unique in that students can put it toward textbooks or on-campus housing.

Points: 7

Created in 2003, Early College for ME or Embark is a scholarship program available to juniors at more than 80 participating high schools in Maine. It offers varied levels of awards. High schools select students “in good standing” for program eligibility. They occasionally focus on financial need and first generation students, but students may contact their guidance counselors for consideration. Nominees are then expected to complete the FAFSA and enroll in a school within the Maine Community College System Campuses for the fall semester post high school graduation. They remain enrolled in a minimum of 12 credit hours for up to four consecutive semesters.

Awards are up to $500 per semester. The funds can be used for community college tuition/fees, books and on-campus housing. In addition to the monetary award, participants can take one or two 3-credit college courses during their senior year (tuition, fees and books paid), and they’ll receive advising support from program start to finish.

16. Onslow Career and College Promise Scholarship in Onslow County, NC

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High school students in North Carolina can take college courses at the end of their regular school days through Onslow Career and College Promise Scholarship, leading to degrees, certificates and diplomas.

Points: 7

Onslow County residents attending one of the seven Onslow County Public Schools are eligible for tuition-free dual enrollment educational opportunities through the Onslow Career and College Promise Scholarship. As a recipient, you can speed up completion of college certificates, diplomas and associate degrees before high school graduation by attending classes (selected from authorized programs of study) at Coastal Carolina Community College. Some of these can double as AP weighted high school credit. Private schools and those homeschooled within the county are also eligible. Some other requirements include a weighted GPA of 3.0 on high school courses and demonstration of college readiness in English, reading and math on an approved assessment or placement test.

The coverage of this college scholarship comes in the forms of two Pathways:

  • College Transfer Pathway: Students have the chance to complete transferable credits/courses that go toward an associate’s and/or bachelor’s degree. Specific ACT, SAT, PSAT, pre-ACT and NC DAP required scores are listed on the program’s website. This Pathway offers a larger variety of available courses.
  • Career and Technical Education Pathway: Students can take courses leading to certificates or diplomas aligned with their career paths

15. Baltimore County Community College Promise in Baltimore, MD

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Median-income high school graduates in Baltimore County can earn an associate’s degree, licensure or certification through the Baltimore County Community College Promise.

Points: 7

College-ready high school graduates of Baltimore County can go to the Community College of Baltimore County tuition-free through the Baltimore County Community College Promise. Tuition and mandatory fees are guaranteed to recipients for four semesters. They must have a high school GPA of 2.5, an adjusted gross income of $69,000 or less and full-time enrollment at CCBC as a new college student. Awardees can choose between a degree or certificate program.

  • If you’re pursuing an associate’s degree, you’re expected to maintain a minimum of 12 credits during the fall and spring semesters with a a minimum 2.5 GPA. Plus, you’re expected to successfully complete the degree within three years.
  • As a workforce licensure or certification (credit or non-credit) seeker, you’re required to maintain continuous full-time enrollment with a 2.5 GPA and complete the credential within the prescribed timeline for the course/program requirements. You must also choose from the eligible non-credit programs list.

14. Early College High School in Tulsa, OK

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Eighth graders in Union Public Schools have the opportunity to complete the general education requirements that Oklahoma colleges require in the initial two years of post-secondary education before they even graduate high school, thanks to Early College High School.

Points: 7

This is the second Tulsa-specific college scholarship program on our list. Early College High School is a selection-based program (not application) that pays for an associate’s degree (up to 60 credits), plus books and transportation, for students still in high school. Similar to that other program, this is with Tulsa Community College, but it’s at zero cost to students. Union Public Schools choose 50-60 students during the spring of eighth grade to receive the award. TCC professors will teach college-level courses at the Union Collegiate Academy, starting with just three courses during sophomore year, then eight courses during junior year and nine courses during senior year.

Still considered a pilot program, the second class of students was just selected in May 2018. They will receive award “extras” like:

  • bi-weekly grade reports
  • study sessions and tutoring
  • individual or group college advisement conferences
  • free transportation and access to TCC facilities.

Awardees are expected to complete a rigorous college prep curriculum in the ninth grade, as well as summer “bridge experience.” Program nominees are typically first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students.

13. North Shore Promise in Massachusetts

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The North Shore Promise grants free tuition and fees to new-student residents of Massachusetts.

Points: 8

The North Shore Promise covers the cost of tuition and fees at North Shore Community College for the first 100 financially qualifying new, full-time (minimum of 12 credits) students who apply. The fees include:

  • General per credit course fees
  • Technology Fees,
  • Facility fees,
  • Lab fees
  • CORI fees.

Awardees must choose from either 34 different eligible programs or one of the Commonwealth Commitment Pathways. These allow students to graduate with an associate degree and transfer to any to MA State college or university with a junior status. As an extra program incentive, those who choose a Massachusetts Commonwealth Commitment and transfer to Salem State University to complete their bachelor’s degree can do so under $10,000.

To receive that, as well as personal support from college staff and advisors, applicants must:

  • be a Massachusetts resident prior to September 1, 2017
  • file a FAFSA annually and remain eligible for a Federal Pell Grant with an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) between $3,800 – $6,094
  • be a new college student, but can be coming from the Early College program
  • be able to complete your degree at NSCC in 2.5 years or 5 continuous semesters while maintaining NSCC’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements

12. Brunswick Guarantee Scholarship in Brunswick County, NC

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Developmental coursework isn’t covered by the Brunswick Guarantee Scholarship, but it has an incredibly flexible eligibility timeline.

Points: 8

The Brunswick Guarantee Scholarship offers residents of Brunswick County in NC last-dollar-plus coverage, meaning tuition and fees are covered for four semesters after other aid has been applied. However, students can also be eligible for up to $750 per semester for textbooks. This program is delightfully flexible, allowing for two “program of study changes” with a lifetime–yes, lifetime–eligibility of 150 percent, pending the availability of funding. For example, if you enroll in a 60-credit-hour college degree, you are allowed up to 90 credit hours to complete the program before losing eligibility.

To be eligible, you must:

  • have been enrolled in a Brunswick County public school, private school or home school in the county for the duration of your high school education, graduating in 2016 or later
  • earn at least a 2.3 unweighted GPA in high school and maintain a minimum of a 2.0 in college coursework, completing at least 67% of credit hours attempted each semester
  • file a FAFSA annually and complete the BCC scholarship application
  • be U.S. citizens or documented lawful permanent residents of the U.S.
  • enroll in a curriculum program (certificate, diploma or degree) at BCC within four semesters after high school graduation

11. Youth Services Program in Kane County, IL (Sugar Grove, Aurora and Plano)

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Kane County’s Youth Services Program offers its residents, including high school dropouts, free tuition and assistance for specific college/career certificates.

Points: 8

The Youth Services Program at Waubonsee Community College is a scholarship geared toward high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24, as well as low-income high school graduates. It offers short-term college or career certificates in specific programs for free. It also offers individualized support from a Youth Services Advisor, the GED exam preparation program and/or additional college classes and programs. The program’s goal is long-term employment, so it also provides assistance with your job search, resume writing and interviewing skills. Limited assistance with transportation and child care referrals is also available. Even more, the program covers the cost of books and course supplies.

Funded through the Kane County Department of Employment and Education, residents of Sugar Grove, Aurora and Plano can take advantage of the following career programs through this scholarship:

  • Auto Body Repair
  • Automotive Technology
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Computer Aided Design and Drafting
  • Emergency Medical Technician
  • Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
  • Office Software Specialist
  • Welding
  • Programs may be added or removed from this list, and others may be approved on an individual basis

10. West Virginia Promise Scholarship

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Choose your degree program wisely while utilizing the West Virginia Promise Scholarship: those on track for an associate’s will only receive the award for four semesters, while those in bachelor’s programs can receive it for eight semesters.

Points: 8

The West Virginia Promise Scholarship began in 2001 and is a merit-based financial aid program for state/U.S. residents. By completing the PROMISE Scholarship Application and FAFSA by March 1 within two years of high school graduation, West Virginians can receive up to $4,750 annually. This covers the cost of tuition and mandatory fees at eligible public or independent institutions in the state. As a merit-based program, students are expected to earn a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, but weighted grades can be used in the computation.

During your freshman year of college, you’re allowed to dip down to a 2.75 GPA, but you’re expected to bring it back up to a 3.0 in subsequent years, or else you can lose the award for good. Students are expected to enroll full-time, earning a minimum of 30 credit hours in each 12-month period continuously until your final two semesters of eligibility. Summer semesters are included (at your own expense) as long as funding provides. Applicants are “strongly urged” to complete at least 20 hours of community service during high school and college.

9. Williamsburg Promise in SC

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According to SC newspaper The State, “the portion of local high school graduates who enroll at Williamsburg Tech has increased from 13 percent to 30 percent in the first semester,” thanks to the Williamsburg Promise scholarship.

Points: 9

Williamsburg Promise is a pilot program that opened in 2017. It offers tuition and fees coverage for in-state and county residents who’ve graduated from a Williamsburg County high school between 2013-2018 (public, private or homeschool; diploma or GED). This award extends to four semesters at Williamsburg County Technical College, including developmental coursework. If you have qualifying low income, you can receive an additional stipend of up to $1500 for other “approved costs.” This is a scholarship for high school students who recently graduated. It does allow for part-time enrollment of at least six credits per semester.

Maintaining the award is simple: Keep up with the college’s Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) and don’t get suspended. This scholarship program also requires mandatory bi-weekly mentoring in a College Skills class.

8. Richmond’s Promise to Virginia

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Richmond’s Promise to Virginia offers essentially a full-ride scholarship to low income Virginians.

Points: 9

Richmond’s Promise to Virginia offers residents a financial aid package including full-time tuition, room and the Spider Unlimited meal plan at the University of Richmond. This award goes beyond tuition coverage to reflect more of a “full ride” toward a bachelor’s degree, but it comes with the following stipulations:

  • Be admitted and enrolled at Richmond as a first-time, first-year student for Fall 2014 or later
  • Have a total annual parental income of $60,000 or less (taxable and untaxed)
  • Qualify for need-based financial aid based on Richmond’s need analysis formula
  • Be U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents; and are domiciliary residents of Virginia (this applies to the custodial parents and student)
  • Submit FAFSA annually
  • Meet SAP through full-time enrollment (3.5 units or more) during the fall and spring terms, and earn a minimum UR cumulative GPA of 2.00 on units attempted

7. 21st Century Scholars in Indiana

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If it wasn’t for the strict accessibility, the 21st Century Scholars program would have topped our list of best college scholarships.

Points: 12

One of the oldest College Promise Programs is Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars, activated in 1990. It offers up to four years of undergraduate tuition at any participating college or university in the state, including some private and for-profit schools. To apply, you must start the process before your ninth grade of high school, and you must complete three “activities” each year until high school graduation. The activities are geared toward college and career success, including items like a graduation plan, workplace experience and filing your FAFSA. Other eligibility requirements include:

  • Household income is within eligibility guidelines ($46,435 for a household of four)
  • Opt to earn above a “general” high school diploma and graduate with an overall GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale
  • Don’t use illegal drugs or commit a crime/delinquent act
  • Apply for admission to an eligible college during senior year and enroll within one year of graduation
  • Complete the FAFSA on time annually
  • Complete at least 30 credit hours each year as a college student
  • Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) standards established by the chosen college

This program helps its Scholars through free, step-by-step support services until they complete their degrees. This includes a wide variety of student-geared resources, specific to each step of the way, as well as one-on-one support services on campus and community mentors. The resources are so specific that it’s safe to say this may be the most helpfully in-depth scholarship program on this list. The specific monetary coverage includes up to 100 percent of tuition and some regularly assessed fees, such as technology, student-activity and health-services fees.

6. MCC Future Fund in Mohave County, AZ

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Residents of all ages in Mohave County can earn an associate’s degree, tuition-free, with the MCC Future Fund.

Points: 12

Residents in Mohave County, AZ who qualify for in-state tuition and submit a FAFSA may be eligible for the MCC Future Fund, which covers tuition and standard fees at Mohave Community College. This is a last-dollar scholarship, so the awards vary depending on amounts received from other funding sources. It doesn’t cover course fees. But it’s accessible to part-time students enrolling in six or more credits. High school seniors must have a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale to be eligible, but MCC students are only required to maintain a minimum cumulative 2.5 GPA and Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP).

Recipients can receive this award for up to five full years, or until they’ve completed their first degree (or certificate, if terminal program), whichever comes first. To renew each year, you simply resubmit the FAFSA and a Future Fund Promise form while abiding by the MCC Student Code of Conduct.

5. Chicago Star Scholarship in Chicago, IL

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The Chicago Star Scholarship is not a need-based program, and is flexible with its eligibility timeline, allowing students to enroll part-time.

Points: 13

The Chicago Star Scholarship is a last-dollar-plus program that covers an associate’s degree at City Colleges of Chicago, as well as textbooks through a $200 book voucher per enrolled course. This college scholarship is available to undocumented students. They must meet the residency requirement by graduating from Chicago Public Schools in 2017 or after with a regular or weighted 3.0 GPA and can test completion-ready in math and English. Interested applicants must complete a FAFSA or Certification of Ineligibility to File for Financial Aid. They must enroll in one of CCC’s structured pathways that lead to a degree or certificate. These funds must be used starting the fall semester after your CPS graduation. After that, you’ll have three full years to complete your program before losing eligibility.

Some four year colleges and universities have partnered with this program to provide participants with scholarships, recruiting and advising support, invitations to university events and academic financial support after transferring from CCC. Students can attend CCC full- or part-time. The award is available during summer terms.

4. Free City in San Francisco, CA

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San Francisco is the first city to offer free community college tuition to all residents, regardless of their stations in life.

Points: 13

For Californians who have been residents of San Francisco for more than one full year –including undocumented residents– Free City at City College offers an enrollment fee tuition waiver of $46 per unit, similar to the California College Promise Grant . To apply, students at City College of San Francisco simply complete the one-page Free City Application, which is included as a screen within the online class registration process. While completing the FAFSA or a California Dream Act Application isn’t necessary, applying comes with its benefits. Free City differs from the CCPG because it will also provide a per-semester stipend of $100 or $250 for part- and full-time students, respectively, if they’re already recipients of the CCPG.

This college scholarship is available to all types of students, regardless of age or income level. It’s extended to the homeless and those in foster care. The semester stipends (not including summer terms) can go toward books, transportation, school supplies and health fees. The timeline for using the award ends after four semesters, but this ‘College Promise Program’ scored high on this list because of how inclusive and accessible it is.

3. GEAR UP Birmingham in Birmingham, AL

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The GEAR UP scholarship program has been around for 18 years, and research shows a “15 percent increase in graduation rates and college admissions for similar GEAR UP districts.”

Points: 14

GEAR UP Birmingham is a new, one-of-a-kind scholarship program, compared to the others on this list. GUP is a scholarship program cohort that includes approximately 3,600 students, who are currently in the ninth and tenth grades at Carver, Huffman, Jackson-Olin, Parker, Ramsay, Wenonah and Woodlawn high schools around Birmingham, AL.

The program offers a tuition-only waiver to both the students in the cohort and their legal guardians. It covers four semesters at any institution or technical college in the Alabama Community College System. The waiver will pay for a minimum of six credit hours and up to 19 credit hours per fall/spring semester, as well as six credit hours during the summer terms.

This college awareness and readiness program will continue to provide resources for the cohort students until their first year of college. The waiver will cover up to an associate’s degree, certificate or a maximum of 82 attempted hours with no repeats (whichever comes first). It does not have an income cap, but participants must demonstrate financial need through filing the FAFSA. The awesome resources provided to both students and their parents through this program are mostly responsible for its high rank.

  • Financial literacy and planning: covers topics such as financial aid and costs associated with college, consumer budgeting, tax preparation, credit repair, debt literacy, college saving plans and college financing options
  • One-on-one academic tutoring and comprehensive mentoring: addresses various needs, like social, organizational and life skills development
  • College awareness services: include college counseling/advising, college tours, placement test preparation, FAFSA completion and more
  • College exploration and planning: assists students with career interests, career planning and internships
  • Additionally, students have opportunities to participate in job site visits and job shadowing

2. Idaho Opportunity Scholarship for Adult Learners

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Originally meant for recently high school graduates only, the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship has expanded to include adult learners who didn’t have a chance to complete their degrees in the past.

Points: 14

The Idaho Opportunity Scholarship for Adult Learners is a need-based scholarship that awards eligible applicants up to $3,500 annually for up to four years. Prior to 2018, resident students could apply for the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship. Now with a new extension, up to 20 percent of available funds can be diverted to adults returning to school, who have already earned 24 credits and are working on their first degree. Otherwise, younger applicants must have graduated or will graduate from an Idaho high school or its equivalent (GED/HSE from Idaho).

The College Promise Campaign labeled this funding as first-dollar, meaning that other aid amounts shouldn’t affect its award amount, and the award can be used for “educational costs” (including books) at any two- or four-year state colleges and universities. The awards are good for up to eight semesters, including summer, and part-timers can receive some funding. Recipients are expected to maintain a 3.0 GPA and resubmit the FAFSA annually. This state program is unique in that Idaho taxpayers have the option to designate a portion of their refunds to the scholarship or opt out, but awards are based on available funding.

1. Early College Program in North Arlington, NJ

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While the GPA requirement for North Arlington’s Early College Program is higher than average, the plethora of college incentive awards are worth it.

Points: 15

The North Arlington School District in New Jersey offers its students some pretty fantastic college financial aid and incentives through its Early College Program. It’s made possible through a partnership with Bergen Community College and New Jersey City University. While still enrolled at North Arlington High School, juniors and seniors can take up to four semesters’ worth of classes approved to fulfill both high school and college degree requirements at BCC’s Meadowlands location in Lyndhurst. Through the program’s Early College Academy, students can then graduate with:

  • an AA in liberal arts
  • an AS in criminal justice
  • an AS in business administration

It’s completely free of charge. The program even covers students’ roundtrip transportation. Another track, the Early Credit Advantage, leads to students graduating from NAHS with 3-30 transferable college credits while working with their school counselors to select courses that will benefit their post-secondary plan the most. Students of both tracks will also receive full access to BCC’s campus, including tutoring services, computer labs and dining halls.

But wait, there’s more. Students who successfully complete the high school program will have access to a transfer agreement with New Jersey City University, streamlining their admission into its bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. This can amount to a total savings of $56,220! To encourage students to continue their education, NJCU offers even more incentives:

  • scholarships from $3,000 to $11,000
  • a waiver of the $55 application fee
  • standardized graduate admission exams (GMAT/GRE/MAT)
  • “a host of additional application materials”
  • graduate assistantships.

However, to earn all of this, students must have a minimum NAHS GPA of 90 and a college GPA of 3.0.

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