It's no secret that the college debt situation in America has reached crisis levels in recent years. In fact, in the past decade, in-state tuition at public universities has outpaced inflation by a hefty 3.1%, according to the College Board' Annual Survey of Colleges. The number marks an “average annual increase of $270 in 2018 dollars, compared with $170 per year between 1988–89 and 1998–99 and $250 per year between 1998-99 and 2008–09,” according to The College Board.
The good news is that at private four-year universities, the growth rate of tuition declined from 2.9% in the late ‘80s and ‘90s to just 2.3% in the last two decades. Furthermore, even the public universities' figure is down some from 4.1% and 4.2% in previous decades. Still, that hasn't changed the fact that college debt figures are higher than ever.
The latest 2019 figures, for example, show more than 44 million former students who collectively owe a total of $1.5 trillion, reported by Forbes based on data from the Institute for College Access and Success. The average student borrower is saddled with $37,172 in loans (reported by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York)—a staggering $20,000 increase from just 13 years ago. As of 2016, the average student debt per capita was $4,920, and student loan debt has surpassed both credit card debt and auto loans to become the second biggest consumer debt category in the nation.
Facing these sobering statistics, a number of public and private institutions have been working to tackle the issue. Some are accomplishing this via work college programs where students work on campus or within the community in exchange for tuition assistance. There are currently seven members of the Work Colleges Consortium (WCC), each of which is federally recognized and overseen by the U.S. Department of Education.
A number of states and cities are getting involved, too, offering grants and other assistance to their residents. New York, for example, recently rolled out the Excelsior Scholarship, which offers free tuition to certain students independent of academic achievement. Oregon, California, and New Jersey all have community college assistance programs and nearly 20 states in total offer some sort of free tuition initiative. Moreover, Ivy League schools and other prestigious universities are providing free tuition to the most academically advanced students in order to bolster the quality of their student bodies.
To give you an idea of the current landscape, Stacker had gathered information on 20 colleges that offer some sort of free tuition to its students. Read on to see which ones you recognize.