Some schools tuition-free, but not easy

There are several specialized schools around the country that actually pick up the tab for you. Where are they? And are they right for everyone?

For many students, college is the first big lesson in loans.

"A lot of my peers at other schools are really worried about graduating and leaving their school with $40,000, $80,000 worth of debt," said Tiana Veldwisch.

But not Tiana -- in fact, she doesn't pay a dime for tuition. She's a senior at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, one of nearly a dozen tuition-free or full scholarship schools nationwide.

"Not having to pay tuition definitely relieves some pressure," said Tiana.

"Paying for college without this program would've been extremely challenging," said Tiana's mother Marlene.

Huge endowments help fund the full tuition scholarships. At most of the schools, you still pay room, board and expenses. They tend to be small and specialized in things like engineering, music, or agriculture.

Each school is unique in its culture and criteria. At College of the Ozarks - dubbed "Hard Work U - students must work for their free money and put in 15 hours each week.

"Students get a grade for your work, just like you get a grade in your classes, and they go on your transcript," said College of the Ozarks President Jerry C. Davis.

"It makes you really appreciate why you're here, and you know that you're working for your education," said Emily Howard, who is also getting free tuition.

But space is limited and competition is intensifying.

"We now have almost a thousand applications for some 80 places in the freshman class, and each year the interest has been growing," said Charles Nolan of Olin's College admissions.

While a free ride on tuition is great, Sandy Baum with The College Board cautions it's not the only or most important thing to consider when choosing a school.

"Students need to find the college or university that bests suits their needs, and then try to get as much financial aid as possible," said Baum.

But if the tuition-free school fits and you do get in Emily Howard says, "It really is a great opportunity."

For more information:

The College Board

Programs for Education

Hard Work U - College of the Ozarks

City University of New York Teacher's Academy

Cooper Union School

Curtis Institute of Music

Deep Springs College

Ecclesia College

Olin School

Berea College

Alice Lloyd College

The United States Naval Academy

The Webb Institute


Click here for more headlines from ABC7 Eyewitness News

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.