Shopping for the right college is like shopping for carpets in the depths of some souk in Marrakesh. Only a sucker would pay the sticker price at most schools. However, thanks to a nearly perfect price discrimination scheme, getting to the actual price you will pay involves an elaborate, form-ridden process.
If you want to be guaranteed you are getting a good deal, check out these 18 colleges and universities. Some are work colleges and military academies that are either completely free or basically free to attend. Others are top-tier state universities that offer a great deal as long as you can finagle state residency. Still more are private universities with large endowments that provide a combination of incredible financial aid and a reputation that will pad your résumé for a lifetime.
The United States Naval Academy in beautiful Annapolis, Md. is free to every student. Midshipmen also receive a stipend of $924.40 monthly (though almost all of it is automatically deducted for things you have little choice but to buy). The Academy also covers room and board as well as medical and dental care for all students. In return for this generous four-year scholarship, all graduates must served five years of active duty service. Naval Academy alumni include Ross Perot, Jimmy Carter, and John McCain.
Since 1928, Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music has offered full-tuition scholarships to each of its 166 students regardless of financial status. The scholarships are for both undergraduate and graduate students. With a measly acceptance rate of just four percent, though, admission is very hard to come by. Notable alumni include Leonard Bernstein and a slew of accomplished composers and musicians.
In 2001, Princeton University became the first school in the country to eliminate student loans and replace them with free grants. Yeah, Princeton is expensive, but its financial aid is amazing. Also, unlike a lot of schools that say they are need-blind, Princeton is need-blind (and its financial aid spending has increased by more than 150 percent since 2003). A Princeton diploma is a golden ticket, too.
Due to its unique student work program College of the Ozarks in rural Missouri is known as “Hard Work U.” Instead of paying tuition, students at this notably Christian school work 15 hours each week in the campus work program. They also work two 40-hour work weeks over the course of the year.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the best universities in the nation. It has long been called one of the “public Ivies.” Out-of-state admission can be a problem, though: UNC requires at least 82 percent of each freshman class to consist of North Carolina residents. Annual tuition and fees for North Carolina residents costs $8,374.