45 Top Free Tuition Scholarships for College (Receiving Public-Private Funding)

The November elections are upon us, and running in them are progressive House candidates like New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, championing tuition-free college at two- and four-year universities. These “College Promise” scholarship programs aren’t new. They’ve been around since the ‘90s, but way more have materialized in the last few years. They come in all shapes and sizes, each with its own mission, offerings and eligibility requirements.

Great Value Colleges has been working to collect and rate lists of these public and/or privately funded scholarships that exist across the country. Our past two articles in this series were rankings of the “Top Statewide Promise Scholarships for College” and the “30 Top Free Tuition College Scholarships (Publicly-Funded)”. Now, we present you with the top 45 Tuition-Free College Scholarship Programs (Public-Private Funding).

Since these college scholarships receive funding from federal, state and private sources, the funding availability is not always guaranteed beyond one or more years. Additionally, they are more place-based. This means a program’s applicants must live in a specific county/city/school district. They also must graduate from an eligible high school (local private, charter and homeschools are typically included). Some scholarship awards are even prorated, depending on how many years an applicant has attended the eligible high school.

New smaller-scale place-based “College Promise” scholarship programs are cropping up faster than the College Promise Campaign can keep up with. In one example, the Maryland state legislature approved $15 million in annual funding for two new programs just a few months ago. It offers free community college tuition and a “near-completer” grant to financially aid adult students in completing their degrees.

As in the last two articles, we used the College Promise Campaign’s database as our research starting point. We collected a list of the College Promise scholarship programs receiving public and private funding 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 the 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.

45. Coastside Futures in Half Moon Bay, CA

college completer scholarship
Coastside Futures provides about 50 Half Moon Bay High School students with financial aid scholarships each year.

Points: 2

Coastside Futures is a collaboration among the Cabrillo Education Fund, Cabrillo Unified School District, La Honda Pescadero Unified School District and the San Mateo Community Colleges. More private fundraising is necessary for this program to maximize its offerings. However, it’s currently providing around 50 students with a financial aid scholarship each year. Starting in 2017, 48 Half Moon Bay High School students received $25,000 in college scholarships.

CF is still in the process of developing an advising and mentoring program during post-secondary education, as well as a number of college readiness programs for kids in middle and high school.

44. Central Valley Promise in Fresno, CA

free community college best schools
The Central Valley Promise scholarship program offers multiple tracks that expand the scholarship’s coverage area.

Points: 3

The Central Valley Promise is labeled as a pilot program. This  allows students who graduate from Mendota Unified or Firebaugh Las-Deltas Unified School District high schools to attend one semester at West Hills Community College Coalinga for free. They must complete Central Valley Promise activities for grades 6-12 at the required level, and then graduate high school with at least a 2.7 GPA. After community college, these Promise Scholars are guaranteed a spot at Fresno State University.

This college scholarship program offers two additional pathways: East Side and Urban. East Side allows Kings Canyon Unified and Sanger Unified students free access to Reedley College.  Urban allows Fresno Unified students free access to Fresno City College. This College Promise Program also includes a community service requirement, college and career counseling through middle/high school and priority registration.

43. Finish 4 Free in Baltimore, MD

national merit scholarship baltimore schools
Finish 4 Free has very specific accessibility requirements, but those who are eligible can finish a bachelor’s degree tuition-free.

Points: 3

Through ”Finish 4 Free”, Coppin State University is offering two years of tuition-free college for students in Baltimore City. Students who graduated from a Baltimore City Public High School and went on to complete an associate’s degree at Baltimore City Community College are eligible.

Applicants must provide official final high school and BCCC transcripts at the time of application. They must also submit the FAFSA.

42. School Counts! in Madisonville, KY

fulbright scholarship colleges in kentucky
The School Counts! college scholarship program will cover the cost of an associate’s degree at Madisonville Community College.

Points: 3

School Counts! is a workforce readiness program that provides Hopkins County Schools’ freshmen with tuition support at Madisonville Community College. To be eligible for up to a $1,000 per-semester award, participants must complete high school in eight consecutive semesters, earning a 2.5 GPA and a 95 percent attendance/punctuality record every year. You must also take more than the minimum number of credits required for high school graduation.

Awardees may receive this scholarship for up to four semesters if they enroll at MCC full-time each semester. While in college, they must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA while pursuing either Associate in Applied Science degree in business administration or an Associate of Arts degree.

41. LTC Promise Scholarship in Cleveland, WI

city college community colleges
Lakeshore Technical College offers more than 70 career programs that students can enroll in for free through the LTC Promise Scholarship.

Points: 3

The LTC Promise Scholarship covers the gap between Pell grants awards and Lakeshore Technical College’s tuition and fees for up to four consecutive semesters. The LTC application fee can also be waived after you submit the Promise Interest Form. At LTC, students must enroll full-time each semester in a financial aid-eligible program to continue receiving the award.

High school seniors (and homeschoolers) are eligible if they reside in or attend schools within the Lakeshore Technical College District. They must graduate on time with a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher and a composite ACT score of 16 or higher.

40. Access to Community College Education (ACCE) in Dublin, VA

free community college in va
Access to Community College Education allows residents of multiple counties the chance to attend two years of New River Community College tuition-free.

Points: 4

Access to Community College Education (ACCE) provides students from the counties surrounding New River Community College with the opportunity to attend the college tuition-free for two years. The eligibility area includes the City of Radford, Floyd County, Giles County and Montgomery County. You must be a recent high school graduate with a 2.5 GPA to apply, and you must submit the FAFSA.

To continue receiving funds for all four semesters, you’re required to complete 40 hours of community service prior to each semester. You must also enroll in the college full-time, specifically in a degree or certificate program that meets federal financial aid requirements. If you’re unsuccessful in a course, the program requires that you reimburse it for that course. You’ll have to pay back the whole semester if your GPA falls below a 2.5.

39. Rancho Cordova Promise in Folsom, CA

where to go to college in california
The Rancho Cordova Promise funds are usable at any Folsom Lake College campus.

Points: 5

Recent high school graduates who are residents of Rancho Cordova can go to Folsom Lake College fee-free for their first year, thanks to the Rancho Cordova Promise. This is a last-dollar-plus funding program. This means that if federal financial aid covers all or part of your tuition/fees, you can still use Promise funds for textbooks and class materials purchased through the FLC College Store. The awards can be up to $579 per semester, paying for up to 12 units and a University Transit Pass Fee.

Eligibility of this place-based scholarship goes by home address. Students must apply to FLC before completing the FAFSA and RCP application. All students who meet the general qualifications automatically receive funding for their first semester, regardless of GPA or income. To continue receiving funds, you must  pass at least six of your units with a “C” or better.

38. Advantage Shelby County in Indianapolis, IN

free college america
Students accepted to the Advantage Shelby County program receive financial aid and student success services.

Points: 5

Qualifying students can receive financial assistance, advising services, community mentors and more for two years at Ivy Tech Community College. The Advantage Shelby County program aims at raising educational attainment and workforce readiness for students who choose from the following specific postsecondary programs:

  • Advanced Automation and Robotics Technology
  • General Studies
  • Business Administration
  • Transfer General Education Core

To be eligible, you must graduate from a Shelby County High School with a minimum 2.0 GPA and enroll full-time at Ivy Tech. Those who complete a homeschool program or obtain a high school equivalency diploma under 19-years-old within the Shelby are also eligible. You must remain a Shelby County resident for the duration of the scholarship, while complying with the Advantage Shelby County Pledge. Scholarship participants are also required to complete 10 hours of community service per semester and participate in the mentoring program.

37. HCC Promise Pathway Program in Hagerstown, MD

free money for college
The HCC Promise Pathway Program has two parts: a college bridge program for rising 6th-9th graders and financial aid once formally admitted in 10th grade.

Points: 5

Public, private and homeschooled students living in Washington County can apply as early as sixth grade to the HCC Promise Pathway Program. This college scholarship covers “essential college education costs” not included in a student’s federal financial aid package. Before the 10th grade, students in this program are considered prospects, receiving academic guidance and mentoring for college success. They then transition to Promise Pathway Program scholarship students. They receive early admission status into Hagerstown Community College to earn a letter of recognition, program certificate or associate’s degree.

The primary criteria for admission into the program is a minimum 2.5 GPA in high school, which students must maintain through their time as HCC students. You must also have documented family financial need, so submitting the FAFSA is required.

36. Community Scholarship Program Versailles, KY

college scholarships in kentucky
Earn a technical certification and/or associate’s degree tuition-free at West Kentucky Community and Technical College through the Community Scholarship Program.

Points: 5

The Community Scholarship Program covers tuition costs for up to 60 credit hours toward a technical certification and/or an associate degree at West Kentucky Community and Technical College. This last-dollar scholarship has been around since 2010. It offers coverage for students at a participating Paducah or McCracken County high school or homeschooled within McCracken County.

To receive initial funds, you should apply before your high school freshman year. Otherwise, late applications will lead to a prorated award amount. This could be as low as 25 percent of the original award if you apply during senior year. You must graduate high school with a minimum 2.5 GPA and a 95 percent cumulative attendance record. Maintain the same GPA through college and continue without any gap semesters to keep receiving this scholarship for up to five consecutive semesters.

35. FSCJ Promise in Jacksonville, FL

cheapest colleges in florida
The FSCJ Promise pays for the tuition, fees and books necessary to earn a two-year degree.

Points: 5

Up to 1,000 new first-time students from Duval and Nassau counties will receive coverage of tuition, fees and books through the FSCJ Promise. This scholarship and its $700 per-semester book grant is applicable for four consecutive terms full-time at Florida State College of Jacksonville. This Promise program includes mentorships, workplace coaching, paid internships, tutoring and more.

You must graduate from a public, private or charter school in the two counties within the last five years. Local homeschool program graduates are also eligible. You’re required to submit the FAFSA and qualify for any level of Pell Grant. Once in the program, you must maintain a 2.0 GPA and be continuously enrolled until completion. Promise students are also expected to serve a total of 60 hours of community service.

34. Barstow College Promise in Barstow, CA

barstow college scholarship applications
The Barstow College Promise scholarship program encourages college success with financial aid, one-on-one counseling and workshops.

Points: 6

Thanks to the Barstow College Promise, every graduate from Barstow, Baker Valley and Silver Valley Unified School Districts can go to Barstow Community College for one year, tuition-free. This college scholarship for high school seniors acts as a waiver, covering all enrollment fees after other aid has been applied. It also provides a book voucher at the Viking Bookstore.

The eligibility and application requirements are:

  • Apply to Barstow Community College
  • Apply to the Barstow College Promise
  • Submit the FAFSA of CA Dream Act application
  • Attend orientation and meet with an advisor
  • Enroll full-time, a minimum of 12 units
  • Attend a mandatory Barstow College Promise Orientation
  • Attend 3 Barstow College Promise workshop per semester
  • Turn in two progress reports
  • Meet with a Barstow Community College Counselor to complete a comprehensive Student Education Plan
  • Maintain academic progress, a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0, and a completion rate of about 50 percent
  • Meet with the Barstow College Promise Advisor to register for Spring semester

33. Shasta College Promise Program in Redding, CA

scholarships for adult students
Californians can go to Shasta College tuition-free for one year thanks to the Shasta College Promise Program.

Points: 6

First-time college students, whether you’re a graduating senior or adult, can attend Shasta college one year for free through the Shasta College Promise Program. Specifically, this college scholarship covers $46 per unit for full-time students who are California residents or AB540.

To apply, submit the FAFSA or California Dream Act application. Register for at least 12 credits and complete the new student orientation, as well as an education plan at the college. The full year of coverage includes the summer term, but you must remain enrolled for consecutive semesters.

32. 13th Year Promise Scholarship in Seattle, WA

cheapest colleges near seattle
Students in the 13th Year program continue into their second quarter and second year of college at higher rates than the overall student body at South Seattle College.

Points: 6

Graduating seniors at eligible high schools can go to South Seattle College tuition-free for one year through the 13th Year Promise Scholarship. Fees are not included in the coverage. However, awardees can use their funds during the winter term and in the school’s 12- to 15-credit study abroad programs. Applicant eligibility is focused on underrepresented groups like low-income, first-generation and minority students. Regardless of GPA or income, graduates of the following high schools are encouraged to apply:

  • West Seattle High School
  • Cleveland High School
  • Chief Sealth International High School
  • Rainier Beach High School

Simply apply to the college as a full-time student the fall after graduation, submit the FAFSA or WASFA and apply to the scholarship. Maintain a 2.0 cumulative GPA and 67 percent or better completion ratio to be able to receive the second semester of funding. To further increase student support, the Promise established the Readiness Academy for high school seniors to become successful college students.

31. Galesburg Promise in Galesburg, IL

cheapest colleges in illinois
The Galesburg Promise has very simple eligibility requirements, opening up access to a free associate’s degree to students throughout the city.

Points: 6

Recent high school graduates in the city can use the Galesburg Promise to pay for up to 16 credits of tuition (excludes fees) per semester at Carl Sandburg College. Based on the number of years spent at Galesburg Christian School, as a homeschooler in the city or in Galesburg District 205, students can receive 50-100 percent of the scholarship to cover a certificate or associate’s degree for a duration of three years.

Simply submit the FAFSA, apply to two outside scholarships, complete the Galesburg Promise application and enroll at CSC in at least nine credit hours. To continue receiving your award, reapply each year and maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 while successfully completing 67 percent of your enrolled hours.

30. Saginaw Promise in Saginaw, MI

best colleges to go to
The Saginaw Promise scholarship program allows a window of three years after high school graduation for students to utilize its financial aid.

Points: 8

The Saginaw Promise is one of a number of Michigan Promise Zone scholarships on this list. Students who graduate from a high school in the Saginaw Public School District can use this scholarship to cover two years of tuition and mandatory fees at any college, trade school or university in the state. The current award is $2,000 for the school year, splitting it over the two semesters. These awards are also based on how long you’ve lived and gone to school within the Promise Zone. Those residents with a GED are eligible for 10 percent of the award.

You must submit the FAFSA and the Saginaw Community Foundation Scholarship application each of the two years you would like to maintain the scholarship. In college, you must enroll full-time in a program that leads to a degree or certificate.

29. Montana Promise Grant Program (Act) in Montana

free community college in Montana
The Montana Promise will fund state residents’ first two years of college.

Points: 7

The College Promise Campaign labels the Montana Promise as having just been announced, but it was officially signed into law in 2017. This statewide grant program will provide need-based grants to cover the costs of tuition and/or living expenses for resident students at the state’s two-year tribal and community colleges. These grants will be awarded at $75 per credit for the tuition remaining after other financial aid is applied. This program is not yet active because it needs to garner more private funding.

When it is fully funded, priority will be given based on a list of characteristics, such as enrollment in programs leading to a credential in a high-demand field. At least half-time enrollment is required in a program that leads to the opportunity to transfer at the end of the scholarship’s two years. To apply, you must be a high school graduate (or recipient of an equivalent certificate) who has lived in the state 12 months before the application. You must complete the FAFSA and have had a 2.5 GPA in high school.

28. Lansing Promise in Lansing, MI

how to go to college for free
The Lansing Promise offers a highly accessible tuition-free scholarship to resident students in the area.

Points: 8

The Lansing Promise provides tuition assistance for up to 65 credits at Lansing Community College or the equivalent dollar amount toward tuition and fees at Michigan State University of Olivet College. The average Promise Scholar receives around $5,000, and the current maximum award is $6,400. The program allows a four-year window from high school graduation for Scholars to complete their 65 credits.

To be eligible, you must live within the Lansing School District boundaries and attend a local public, private, home or charter school four consecutive years or more. You may also have a GED with eight consecutive years in LSD if you’re under 20. You must submit the FAFSA and the scholarship application within one year of high school graduation.

27. Badger Promise in Madison, WI

cheapest colleges in wisconsin
The Badger Promise offers up to two years of free tuition to first-generation transfer students with minimum eligibility requirements.

Points: 8

All Wisconsin resident first-generation college transfers can attend UW-Madison one year for free through the Badger Promise. Pell-eligible Promise transfers will receive two years of free tuition. This is currently $21,067 in savings for full-time enrollment. Students must successfully transfer from any of the two-year UW Colleges or from liberal arts associate degree programs at any of the following colleges:

  • Madison College (Madison Area Technical College)
  • Milwaukee Area Technical College
  • Western Technical College
  • Nicolet College
  • College of Menominee Nation
  • Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College

This scholarship program allows for part-time student enrollment without any minimum or maximum course credit limits specified. It’s automatically applied to eligible students who submit the FAFSA. Plus, those eligible for the Pell Grant during their first semester are able to retain the Badger Promise for all four semesters even if their Pell eligibility changes.

26. Hammond College Bound Scholarship Program in Hammond, IN

scholarships for college
The Hammond College Bound Scholarship Program offers a full ride to college for the city’s residents and homeowners.

Points: 8

The Hammond College Bound Scholarship Program offers Hammond High School graduates up to $10,500 per year toward tuition and fees at the accredited college or university of their choice. Students, including homeschoolers, who live within Hammond City limits and remain enrolled at an eligible school at least from the sixth grade through graduation are eligible for 100 percent of the award. The lowest possible amount is 60 percent of the award for those at the high school only during 10th through 12th grade. The scholarship is renewable for up to four consecutive years, but students must complete their studies within five years after high school graduation.

Eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • Complete an in-depth application
  • Show proof of residency and parent/guardian homeownership
  • Complete the FAFSA
  • Graduate high school with a GPA of 3.0 or higher (or a 2.5 with an SAT score of at least 1,030)
  • Be enrolled in a full-time undergraduate, degree-seeking program after his/her first year of study
  • Maintain at least a 2.0 GPA in college
  • Complete 40 hours of community service
  • Reapply each year
  • The student’s parents/guardian must continue living in and maintaining homeownership in Hammond until after the scholarship’s four years.

25. Challenge Scholars in Grand Rapids, MI

how to go to college for free
After attending Grand Rapids Community College tuition-free for two years, Challenge Scholars have 46+ four-year college options to choose from for completing a degree.

Points: 8

Starting in 2020, students in Grand Rapids Public Schools can attend college or technical training tuition-free through the Challenge Scholars program. Students can apply during the sixth or ninth grade, but they must maintain a 2.0 GPA and 95 percent attendance rate through graduation from Union High School. The higher a student’s GPA, the more college or training program he/she can choose from at Grand Rapids Community College. With all eligibility requirements met, awardees can earn up to four years of paid tuition, starting at GRCC with the option to transfer after two years.

This scholarship is restricted to families who make around $90,000, but those who make more are eligible for smaller awards. Undocumented students are eligible and will receive help with assembling a financial aid package. Once in the program, students are expected to maintain a 2.5 GPA.

24. Hazel Park Promise in Hazel Park, MI

scholarships for college michigan
The Hazel Park Promise has provided more than $260,000 to its high school graduates since the fall of 2012.

Points: 8

If you’re a resident of Hazel Park and you’ve been enrolled in a Hazel Park School from the fifth grade through graduation, you’re eligible for the Hazel Park Promise. This is one of the multiple Michigan Promise Zone scholarships on this list. The program will cover full tuition and fees for an associate’s degree (up to 62 credits) at Oakland Community College. Depending on your financial aid package, you may be allowed to take the equivalent scholarship to the institution of your choice (up to $1,000 per semester). This program also provides college and career preparatory programs, such as the Hazel Park Career Fellowship program, offering paid summer internships for high school students.

To be eligible, you must submit the FAFSA and a Promise Zone scholarship application. You must also inform the program’s Director of which school you will attend before registering for courses. All awardees must submit copies of their grades at the end of each semester with a minimum GPA of 2.0 to maintain the financial aid. You have four years after high school graduation to complete your postsecondary program.  You must be a full-time student. If you’ve attended an eligible high school for less than eight years, you’re still eligible for a partial award.

23. Community College Access Program in Roanoke, VA

cheapest community colleges in virginia
As of this past spring, more than 2,200 students have attended VWCC tuition-free since the Community College Access Program’s launch.

Points: 9

Go to Virginia Western Community College tuition-free for three years through the Community College Access Program. This scholarship covers the cost of tuition for as many qualifying students each year, depending on need and available funding. Qualified applicants are seniors from public high schools in the localities of:

  • Botetourt County
  • Craig County
  • Franklin County
  • Roanoke City
  • Roanoke County
  • Salem.

Home-schooled and private school seniors from Franklin County, Roanoke County and the City of Salem may also apply. Applicants must have attended their eligible schools during junior year through graduation. Depending on the graduate’s county, applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.0 or 2.5.

Before applying to the program, you must submit the FAFSA and enroll at Virginia Western in a degree/diploma/certificate program that meets the federal financial aid requirements. You must be admitted and enrolled the fall after high school graduation. To maintain the scholarship, enroll in a minimum of 9 credits (max of 15) per semester and maintain the GPA required for admission. If you fall below that GPA, you’ll lose your scholarship for the rest of its duration. All awardees must also complete a four-hour Service Learning Project during each semester.

22. Cerritos Complete in Norwalk, CA

scholarships for college cali
The Cerritos Complete College Promise scholarship offers the seniors of 19 high schools the chance to go to college for free.

Points: 9

Cerritos Complete offers one free year of college with coverage of $46 per unit at Cerritos College. This college scholarship for high school seniors was created by the college in partnership with five local school districts: ABC, Bellflower, Downey, Norwalk-La Mirada and Paramount. Aside from the financial aid, this program offers:

  • One-year early/priority enrollment
  • Step-by-step assistance
  • One-on-one counseling and advisement
  • College preparedness
  • Career exploration
  • Personalized schedule for both semesters with no required minimum or maximum number of credits

To qualify, you must be a graduating high school senior in one of the school districts mentioned above. Submit the FAFSA or Dream Act application before graduation. You must then complete a number of other forms and applications before attending a Falcon Edge Orientation Workshop at CC and a four-day summer semester class. To remain eligible for the spring semester, you must maintain a 2.0 GPA, attend an Education Planning Workshop with the counselors and pass a math or English/ESL course both semesters.

21. De Anza College Promise in Cupertino, CA

free education undocumented CA
The De Anza College Promise grants one free year to De Anza College, which is known as the “top Silicon Valley college for transfer.”

Points: 9

The De Anza College Promise is not in the College Promise Campaign’s database, but we found in our research that it pays for one year of tuition and fees not covered by the California College Promise. Regardless of their tuition coverage, any accepted applicants of this scholarship program automatically receive $500 toward books and course materials. The De Anza College SmartPass also provides free transportation of the Valley Transit Authority system. Finally, this program includes membership in the Promise Learning Community, which offers extensive personalized counseling, continued support and referrals to other resources/learning communities.

Qualifying students must be graduating this year “from all high schools” and enrolling at De Anza in the fall. Low-income students, including those who are undocumented and/or aging out of the foster youth system will receive the scholarship funds before other applicants. They must submit the FAFSA or California Dream Act application by March 2 and apply to DAC as early as possible.

20. Valley-Bound Commitment in San Bernardino, CA

free community college california
The Valley-Bound Commitment offers the opportunity of attending one year of college for free.

Points: 9

Since 2008, the Valley-Bound Commitment has covered one year of enrollment fees and textbooks for low-income students at San Bernardino Valley College. Award recipients also receive priority registration and a team of counselors that work with students throughout the year. The program’s website doesn’t mention it, but another source specified that funds for parking permits and school supplies may also be included. After completing the one-year program, students transition to other student services programs as they continue at SBVC.

Those eligible include recent high school graduates from any of the 17 schools in the San Bernardino, Rialto and Colton Unified School Districts who attended their school during 9th through 12th grade. The scholarship application and SBVC Orientation are available online. Applicants must also complete the FAFSA or Dream Act application. Once accepted, you must maintain full-time enrollment at the college and at least a 2.0 GPA.

19. Foothill College Early College Promise (FCECP) in Los Altos Hills, CA

foothill most beautiful college campuses
High schoolers can attend Foothill College from ninth grade through senior year, completely free.

Points: 9

The Foothill College Early College Promise (FCECP) will cover two years of college tuition, fees, textbooks and possibly transportation for current Los Altos Hills high school students. This scholarship is only for students still in the ninth through 12th grades, but they can take college courses at any of the Foothill College campuses. These courses can qualify for dual credit, and most of them transfer to UC and CSU. Students in this program will also receive access to in-person and online tutoring, a Foothill College student Body Card and a SmartPass Clipper Card for free transportation in Santa Clara County on Valley Transit Authority (VTA) busses and light rail systems during the quarter you are enrolled.

This program is for low-income, minority, first-generation and other underrepresented youth at Mountain View, Los Altos, Alta Vista and Palo Alto high schools. This includes undocumented and AVID students. Simply meet with your high school counselor, complete some forms and applications and attend an FCECP Family Orientation.

18. Dabney Promise in Clifton Forge, VA

cheapest colleges in virginia
The retention rate of Dabney Promise students is 76 percent so far, which is more than double that of the campus’ whole community.

Points: 9

The Dabney Promise is open to all residents of Dabney S. Lancaster Community College’s service area. This includes high school, continuing and non-traditional students! This college scholarship covers tuition, fees and a $750 book stipend per semester for certificate, technical or associate’s degree programs. In 2017-18, the average award amount was $2,183. This is one of the few scholarships on this ranking that includes non-traditional and part-time students.

Other eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • Have an maintain a minimum 2.25 GPA
  • Complete the FAFSA and scholarship applications before their deadlines
  • Attend DSLCC Orientation and the Dabney Promise Program Orientation
  • Enroll in and maintain a minimum of nine credit hours each semester (15 credits max)
  • Take no more than two developmental courses
  • Complete one credit hour SDV course during the first semester
  • Complete four community service hours each semester

17. Los Angeles Promise in Los Angeles, CA

california financial aid
The Los Angeles Promise allows local students to attend one year of college tuition-free.

Points: 10

First-time college students can receive one year of free enrollment at one of Los Angeles Community College District’s nine colleges through the Los Angeles Promise. Eligible students can take up to 30 total credits in one academic year, with the ability to catch up to this total through winter and/or summer terms. Included in this College Promise scholarship program are:

  • Health and student rep fees
  • Priority enrollment
  • Summer Transition (extended orientation)
  • Placement in required math and English courses
  • Career support and counseling (success coaching)

If you graduate from a school within the Los Angeles Unified School District and charter high schools, you’re eligible. You must submit the FAFSA, Dream Act application or the State Fee Waiver application. You’re also required to take math and English in that first year, as well as maintain a 2.0 GPA and continuous enrollment.

16. The Greenwood Promise in Greenwood County, SC

scholarships in south carolina
The Greenwood Promise is military friendly, awarding its scholarship funds before veterans’ educational benefits are applied.

Points: 10

The Greenwood Promise program includes three scheduled phases of scholarship offerings for every high school graduate within Districts 50-52 of Greenwood County. The program currently operates in Phase 1. It provides tuition and mandatory fee coverage at Piedmont Technical College for a certificate, diploma or associate’s degree. If PTC doesn’t offer a particular major, awardees are able to enroll at one of the other SC technical colleges. But the program requires a minimum of 12 credits for completion. When funding allows, the program will implement Phase 2, which covers an additional two years of postsecondary education at Lander University. The future Phase 3 will cover Phase 1, plus all four years of a bachelor’s degree. For now, the Phase 1 scholarship is available for three years after high school graduation (with the exception of those in the military).

To qualify for any award, your residency and school enrollment within the eligible zones must be continuous since the beginning of the ninth grade. The longer you’ve been a resident at the school, the higher your award will be. You should apply during your senior year, but you won’t be accepted if you’ve been convicted of a felony or any drug/alcohol-related misdemeanors. You must also be a permanent U.S. citizen and not in default on a federal student loan. Once admitted into the scholarship program, you must maintain a 2.0 GPA to renew.

15. Ontario Community College Promise Program in Ontario, CA

Points: 10

The Ontario Community College Promise Program funds eligible students’ tuition for up to two consecutive years at any community college in California. This scholarship only covers tuition fees, but recipients who enroll at Chaffey College, Crafton Hills College or San Bernardino Valley College can enjoy unlimited bus rides on Omnitrans’ fixed routes. Students in this program also benefit from internship opportunities throughout their course of study.

You must enroll as a full-time college student within six months of high school graduation to be eligible. Before graduating high school, you also must have lived in the City of Ontario for two years minimum. During your senior year, you need to submit the FAFSA or Dream Act application before applying for the scholarship. To continue receiving it for a second year, simply re-submit those applications, maintain a 2.0 GPA and complete community service hours.

14. Siskiyou Promise in Weed, CA

community colleges in california
The coverage of the Siskiyou Promise extends over 13 high schools in the College of the Siskiyous coverage area.

Points: 10

Every Siskiyou and Modoc County high school graduate can apply for the Siskiyou Promise if they enroll at College of the Siskiyous. The scholarship for high school seniors covers one or two full years of the enrollment, health, student center and ASB fees. You must take at least 12 credits per semester. Awardees will also receive a $200 campus bookstore voucher each semester. For the First Year Scholarship, students must enroll at the college for the fall immediately after high school graduation, completing both the fall and spring semesters consecutively. Designed to fill the financial aid gap of the California College Promise Grant, the Siskiyou Promise offers a Second Year Scholarship for students planning to remain full-time for a second consecutive academic year.

This scholarship also requires applicants to be California residents who submit the FAFSA or Dream Act application each year. Once admitted to the college, awardees must complete the College’s orientation, advising and registration process. To continue receiving the scholarship for a second year, students must remain in good standing with a minimum GPA of 2.0.

13. Benton Harbor Promise in Benton Harbor, MI

If you don’t want to enter college right after high school, the Benton Harbor Promise allows five years after high school graduation for recipients to use their scholarship awards.

Points: 10

Yet another Michigan Promise Zone, seniors residing within the boundaries of the Benton Harbor Promise Zone have the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree at any PELL-eligible community college or trade/vocational school in the state. The Benton Harbor Promise scholarship can cover two years of full tuition and mandatory fees, including:

  • application fees
  • contact hour fees
  • course-specific fees

Summer terms are included in the coverage, and recipients have up to five years after their high school graduation to use their awards. This program also offers a variety of college success programs, like:

  • counseling
  • career guidance
  • Business/Internship Program

The BHP Office partners with local businesses to provide work experiences to seniors and college students who meet the GPA requirement.

You’re eligible for this scholarship if you apply as a senior and graduate from Benton Harbor High School, Countryside Academy or Dream Academy. The size of your award depends on how long you’ve attended a school within the eligibility boundaries. The full award goes to those who’ve been at their school from at least the fifth grade through graduation. Those who attended only during their senior year can still receive 25 percent of the award. To remain eligible, you must enroll as a full-time college student, make regular progress in your program and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA.

12. Berkeley Promise in Berkeley, CA

uc berkeley cheap schools california
In addition to financial aid scholarships, the Berkeley Promise offers one-on-one mentoring and a host of college success programs.

Points: 10

All graduates of the Berkeley Unified School District receive one free semester at Berkeley City College. In 2017, the Berkeley Community Fund rolled out an additional scholarship, the Berkeley Promise. This  provides monthly mentoring sessions in addition to an award of $1,500 dispersed over two years. Even more, those promise scholars transferring to a four-year college or university are eligible for an additional $8,000 scholarship and continued one-on-one support. If you’re still in high school at the time of application, you can receive access to:

  • early college credit
  • online test prep
  • internships
  • help with FAFSA or the Dream Act application and more.

Eligible students are those who graduate from Berkeley High School or Berkeley Technology Academy. They are then expected to enroll at Berkeley City College the fall after graduation with a goal of transferring to a four-year college. BCC must be the applicant’s home college. This scholarship places a focus on applicants who are first-generation college students, from a low-income family and/or are from a traditionally underrepresented group in higher education. Some awardees can be eligible for textbook and transportation waivers. Those who are able to maintain a 2.5 GPA at BCC will receive guaranteed admission/transfer to CSU East Bay.

11. Rio Promise in Whittier, CA

rio promise cheapest colleges california
The first college in Los Angeles County to offer two years of free tuition, Rio Hondo College’s Rio Promise sets students on a track for academic success.

Points: 11

Rio Hondo College offers free tuition for two years and priority registration through the Rio Promise. In addition to financial aid, this College Promise scholarship program offers a host of guidance and support services to its recipients. These include:

  • a math academy (in a summer bridge program)
  • workshops
  • academic counselors
  • assistance with transferring to four-year universities and more

During the program’s first year, 456 students from local high schools participated. By year two, that number almost quintupled to 2,215 student participants.

Rio Hondo College offers 20+ degree programs that guarantee transfer to California State University campuses. To be eligible for this program, you must be a first-time college student who is a California resident or qualifies for the California Dream Act. You must first submit the FAFSA or Dream Act application and apply to the college. Additional requirements are as follows:

  • Complete the online orientation and participate in a summer “Transition Activity”
  • Register as a full-time student (minimum of 12 units) for both the fall and spring
  • Attend one Student Success Appointment and two workshops
  • Meet with a counselor
  • Maintain a 2.0 GPA or better each semester
  • Re-submit the FAFSA or Dream Act application for the second yearr

10. Montclair to College in Rancho Cucamonga, CA (formerly Online to College)

cheapest community colleges california
If you don’t qualify for the FAFSA, undocumented students interested in the Montclair to College program and scholarship can complete the California Dream Act Application.

Points: 11

If you go to California’s Montclair High School from ninth grade through graduation, the Montclair to College promise scholarship can get you a free associate’s degree. For two years, this college scholarship will cover the cost of tuition, student fees, parking and textbooks at Chaffey College. To apply, you must enroll in the Montclair Online to College Program before the end of the ninth grade academic year and remain enrolled through graduation. The minimum GPA requirement is a 2.0.

In addition to the monetary funding, students in this program participate in:

  • Chaffey College campus tours
  • college workshops
  • classroom visits
  • community activities

To be eligible, applicants must remain residents of the City of Montclair from the point of acceptance through the duration of the scholarship. One accepted into the program, students must re-register annually,  periodically meet with MTC reps and participate in MTC events. The program also has an annual five-hour community service requirement.

9. Aims Promise Scholarship in Greeley, CO

free community college in colorado
Since 2007, students who received the Aims Promise Scholarship have earned more than 249 certificate and 94 degree credentials at Aims.

Points: 11

If you’re a Colorado resident who graduated high school in the Greeley-Evans or Fort Lupton school districts within the past three years, you should apply for the Aims Promise Scholarship. This College Promise program provides last-dollar financial support for two years of tuition, books and fees at Aims Community College. The award can be up to $2,500, and some eligible students can receive “carry-over scholarship support” to UNC.

This scholarship is part-time-student-friendly, requiring a minimum of half-time enrollment (6 credits) and a 2.0 GPA to maintain the funding. This must be your first time entering college, and you must complete a FAFSA. However, this program earned more accessibility points, allowing students to apply up to three years after graduating high school. For the second year of funding, Promise scholars must participate as peer-to-peer advocates in the program.

8. College of the Canyons First-Year Promise in Santa Clarita, CA

free community college california
The College of the Canyon’s First-Year Promise scholarship backs up its promise of free college by including books, supplies and transportation in its funding coverage.

Points: 12

Eligible first-time, full-time freshmen at College of the Canyons can apply for the First-Year Promise Program. This scholarship can cover $46 per unit for up to 15 units during the recipient’s first fall and spring semesters. The coverage includes:

  • All enrollment fees, student fees, parking permits and bus passes
  • $100 bookstore gift card for fall and spring supplies
  • Instructional materials and computer lab printing
  • Access to coaches, mentors, counselors and tutoring
  • Course selection that takes advantage of Open Educational Resources (free textbooks)

California residents and AB 540-eligible students must complete the FAFSA or California Dream Act application. You are eligible to apply to the program if you have an Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) of $50,000 or less and you apply to the College. This college scholarship accepts students on a first-come, first-served basis until the 500-student limit is reached. If the program doesn’t reach its limit, it will begin accepting applicants whose EFC is higher than $50,000.

7. Detroit Promise in Detroit, MI

college in detroit scholarships
The Detroit Promise scholarship can fund an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree for eligible high school students within the city.

Points: 12

Through the Detroit Promise, graduating seniors at Detroit high schools can continue on to any state-funded university (17 options) or community college (six options) tuition-free for two or four years. The two- and four-year scholarships are separate with individual eligibility requirements. To be eligible for either, your degree program of choice must be Pell-eligible (FAFSA submission required). You must be a Detroit resident, who went to an eligible high school for at least two years prior to graduating from it. Participating high schools are those within the Detroit Public Schools Community District, including self-governing, charter, private, alternative, home and parochial schools. GED recipients 19 years or younger are eligible.

Those receiving either scholarship are also expected to participate in mandatory activities specific to each college/university, such as:

  • orientations
  • study groups
  • and/or classes on academic success

To continue receiving the scholarships, students must also meet their schools’ Satisfactory Academic Progress standards and remain on track to complete their programs. The scholarship does allow part-time enrollment if it’s warranted. The two-year scholarship funds are usable only at the program’s partner community colleges. The four-year scholarship requires a higher GPA (3.0), residency/eligible high school attendance ninth grade through 12th (GED recipients not included) and a minimum score of 21 ACT/1060 SAT. The program even allows extra completion time for those who can’t finish a program within its traditional two- or four-year timeline.

6. Pontiac Promise Zone in Pontiac, MI

free college in michigan
The Pontiac Promise Zone scholarship program scored high because of its generous financial offerings, accessibility and expanded coverage that includes all colleges and universities in Michigan.

Points: 12

Students in Michigan’s Pontiac School District are eligible for the Pontiac Promise Zone scholarship. It covers tuition and fees for a two-year degree at any college or university in the state. With additional funding, the program plans to expand to support its recipients through the completion of their bachelor’s degrees. For now, Pontiac Promise scholars can receive up to $4,000 per year, with an additional $300 per semester in book reimbursement for eligible recipients. This scholarship program is unique in that it will also cover the costs of paid training and apprenticeships. This program’s timeline is also very patient, accepting applications as late as five years after receiving a high school diploma or GED. It also allows recipients to take up to four years to complete their associate’s degree programs.

This scholarship’s eligibility requirements include living within the boundaries of the Pontiac School District. This includes some addresses in Auburn Hills, Bloomfield Hills, Lake Orion, Rochester, Lake Angelus and White Lake in addition to Pontiac. You must submit the FAFSA, even as a DACA recipient, and you must gain admission to a post-secondary program in the state. Finally, you must have earned a GED within the school district or a diploma from one of the following schools within five years of applying:

  • Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac
  • Auburn Hills Christian
  • Baldwin Rd. Church Academy
  • Heritage Christian School
  • International Technology Academy
  • Life Skills Center of Pontiac
  • Notre Dame Preparatory School
  • Oakland Christian
  • Pontiac Academy for Excellence
  • Pontiac High School

5. Indy Achieves (Indianapolis Promise) in Marion County, Indiana

where to go to college indiana
The Indy Achieves promise scholarship has yet to operate at its full capacity, but its website offers a number of informational and financial resources for eligible Indiana residents.

Points: 12

Indy Achieves is labeled as the Indianapolis Promise on the College Promise Campaign’s website, but it was rebranded and officially launched by the Indianapolis Promise Task Force in May 2018. From the looks of the information available online, Indy Achieves is not yet fully-functioning as it’s intended. However, in 2019, it is expected to offer the Indy Promise Scholarship, the Indy Achieves Completion Grant and wraparound services for any Marion County residents pursuing a post-secondary degree. The college scholarship will guarantee free tuition, books and fees for every Marion County resident who’s accepted into Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program This was highlighted in a previous College Promise program ranking. The completion grant is expected to provide over a million dollars a year in grants to Marion County students, regardless of age, who pursue high-demand degree programs. Finally, the extra wraparound services include postgraduate employment connections, FAFSA assistance and more.

To be eligible, you must be a Marion County resident who applies for 21st Century Scholars before the ninth grade. You must then submit the FAFSA and maintain a satisfactory GPA and 30 credits each academic year (for the Indy Achieves Scholarship). The Completion Grants will be awarded with a preference for students who have already completed 75 percent of a program with a history of good academic standing and are pursuing high-demand career paths. Indy Achieves will specifically work with Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis and Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis to offer a structured schedule for adult learners to reduce scheduling barriers, among other services.

4. Power of YOU in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN

college scholarships for adults
The Power of YOU scholarship comes in two forms: funding for a full-time associate’s degree or a part-time Workforce Development major program.

Points: 13

The Power of YOU scholarship program is need-based, covering two years of tuition and fees at Saint Paul College or Minneapolis Community and Technical College. In addition to the financial assistance awardees receive, they are also provided access to:

  • advising and support services
  • community service opportunities
  • career exploration
  • student success seminars

Each recipient is assigned a personal advisor who provides services like one-on-one class registration guidance, FAFSA assistance and academic support. Since the program’s federal and state grants cover the remaining tuition and fees after other aid is applied, the private funding is used to provide Promise Scholars with extracurriculars. These include field trips as well as an incentive program that helps students with the cost of books, transportation and meal cards.

To be eligible for this scholarship, you must graduate from a Minneapolis, St. Paul or surrounding suburban public/charter/alternative or private high school in Spring 2019. This program does not accept GED recipients. You must apply during your senior year, and you must enroll at Minneapolis College full-time for Fall 2019. To continue your eligibility, you must achieve the following every semester:

  • Maintain a 2.5 GPA
  • Meet with your POY advisor three times
  • Maintain continuous enrollment
  • Complete two Student Success Seminars
  • Complete 10 hours of community service

Those POY students who complete an associate’s degree at MCTC become eligible for a scholarship from Augsburg University. POY also offers a Workforce Development Scholarship of about $2,500 per year for part-time students in specific majors like agriculture, healthcare and advanced manufacturing.

3. Baldwin Promise in Baldwin, MI

baldwin high school college scholarships
Through the Baldwin Promise scholarship in Michigan, Promise award recipients, family and community members benefit from the informative College Access Center.

Points: 14

The Baldwin Promise offers middle-dollar funding to cover four years of tuition and fees for “every single graduate of Baldwin High School regardless of merit or need.” If you’ve been a Baldwin Schools student from the ninth grade through graduation, you could receive up to $20,000 total, usable at any university or college (including private) in the state of Michigan. Students receive prorated award amounts depending on how long they attended the school, with GED completers receiving 10 percent of the award. Those who attended during their senior year receive 25 percent.

Once you’ve graduated high school, submitted the FAFSA and applied for the scholarship, you have up to four years to use your award. This means the bachelor’s or associate program you plan to put this award toward must be completed within that four-year timeline, or else you’ll have to eventually pick up the financial burden. You must also remain a full-time college student, enrolling in at least 12 credit hours per semester and maintaining at least a 2.0 GPA. Award recipients may make requests to use the funding during summer terms.  Part-time enrollment is allowed, but it comes with a lower award amount.

2. San Jose Promise in San Jose, CA

college scholarship undocumented student
The San José Promise is built upon three core elements: college readiness, college scholarships and College Pathways Partnerships.

Points: 15

The San Jose Promise scholarship is for “every single student from a high school in San José.” It focuses on applicants who are low-income, first-generation and/or historically-underrepresented students, including those who are undocumented. Recipients who enroll at one of the four participating schools can, for up to two consecutive years, receive funding that covers:

  • college tuition
  • fees (including health fee)
  • textbooks and transportation

Promise scholars also benefit from priority registration for classes and additional student support services like an older scholar mentor, internships and community service opportunities.

To apply, you must be a graduating senior from a high school in San Jose or a graduating senior who lives within the City of San Jose or West Valley District area. The four participating colleges are West Valley, De Anza, Evergreen Valley and San Jose City. The college you must enroll at depends on your eligibility, and certain schools come with one-year limitations or no transportation coverage. Still, students who enroll at San Jose City College can expect about $5,300 in estimated savings. Promise scholars must be full-time students who earn a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 each semester. Some counseling sessions, orientations and math and writing workshops require participation.

1. Flint Promise in Flint, MI

flint, MI scholarships for college
The Flint Promise program is our number one best scholarship program on this ranking.

Points: 16

Michigan’s Flint Promise scholarship offers last-dollar-plus funding to high school graduates within the city. It covers tuition and mandatory fees, as well as books and student support services. This promise program is place-based with award amounts that vary depending on how long the applicant has attended an eligible City of Flint high school. These include private, parochial and charter schools. You’re eligible for 100 percent of the award if you’ve gone to one or more of the eligible schools for four years. GED graduates are eligible to receive 30 percent. Other eligibility requirements include:

  • Graduate in or after 2018
  • Submit the FAFSA yearly
  • Be a Flint resident at the time of graduation, and attend one of the 11 eligible high schools for at least one year (to earn 25% of the award)
  • Complete high school with a 1.8 GPA or higher
  • Apply to Mott Community College and/or the University of Michigan-Flint (there are plans to expand participation to other colleges and universities)
  • Be 24-years-old or younger

Once you receive this promise scholarship, you must enroll full-time and regularly meet with a success coach to remain eligible. Promise scholars who achieve the minimum academic standards required for receiving financial aid can use the scholarship for up to six years. This enables you to earn an associate’s and/or a bachelor’s degree. Winter courses are covered, as will summer courses beginning in 2019. Something to appreciate about this specific program is the fact that high school grads can defer the scholarship until they’re 24, removing that common “recent high school graduates only” stipulation. After allowing three full years for recipients to complete a two-year degree, the program guarantees admission to transfer applicants at UM-Flint. First-time applicants who meet the university’s minimum admission requirements are also guaranteed to get in.

Related Resources