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14 Great Grad Programs That Offer Free Tuition in 2021

Who doesn’t love the idea of getting something for free? It’s even better when what’s free is something as expensive as graduate school tuition.

We’ve put together a list of the schools, colleges, and universities across the United States that offer free tuition for their graduate programs. But first, let’s delve into a short discussion of why free tuition matters and what it entails.

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Fees are Soaring, and Students are Drowning (in Debt)

Year after year, colleges and universities inevitably raise their tuition rates and fees. From 2009 to 2019 alone, the cost of going to college has jumped by more than 25%. Based on the academic year 2019-2020, it is estimated that the average private graduate school tuition is $16,914 a year. Public schools offer slightly lower rates at $9,751 per year for graduate students who reside within the state. Nevertheless, shelling out nearly $10,000 a year for graduate school is still not easy for many.

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In turn, a college education is becoming more of a privilege. Even graduate school attendees, who mostly already have jobs that can support them, can still struggle to afford the tuition fees. Thus, many student hopefuls find their choices limited significantly by how much they can afford unless they take on student debt. And many of them do. The 2020 figures show that roughly 45 million people in the United States have student debt that they still need to pay off. So now more than ever, students are turning to schools with free or subsidized tuition.

What Does Free Tuition Mean, Exactly?

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Free tuition doesn’t always mean that you don’t have to spend a single penny for graduate school, though a couple of the schools on our list commit to providing completely free education, except for some small fees. Free tuition can be conditional (e.g., based on student’s family income or consistent performance); it can also be in the form of scholarships, fellowships, grants, or tuition work programs that need to be applied for first.

Some graduate schools that provide substantial stipends, allowances, and subsidies for travel, housing, and health insurance. All these translate to substantially reduced tuition and nearly 100% free tuition!

The graduate schools we’ve selected provide a combination of one or more of these types of financial support.

Free-Tuition Grad Programs

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It’s common for many educational institutions across the United States to offer some form of financial assistance for their students; however, most of these are intended for students taking bachelor’s degrees. Financial support and low-cost or free tuition is harder to come by among graduate schools. Still, there’s no need to fret – read on to find out the 14 schools in the United States (in no particular order) that offer great graduate programs that won’t leave you saddled with student debt long after graduation.

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University of the People

Not all people who want to get into graduate school have the time and luxury to do full-time, on-campus programs, as many are also juggling work and family duties at the same time. If you are looking for a graduate school that has both flexibility and free tuition as its strongest points, then the aptly named University of the People (UoPeople) should be at the top of your list.

The University holds the impressive distinction of being the first-ever fully online American university to provide free tuition to all of its students. It’s one of the rare types of schools that offer free tuition without conditions like annual income or performance. Students only need to pay $60 upfront upon application and, at the end of every course, pay the $ 200-course assessment fee.

The minimal fees can be covered by scholarships and grants, for those who have strictly limited financial capacity. All this is possible, thanks to the UoPeople’s many partnerships and donors from companies and institutions.

Despite its affordability, the University of the People has made sure not to compromise the quality of education it provides. It is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). At the same time, its President’s Council, Advisory Boards, and Deans all come from prestigious academic institutions all over the world, such as the New York University, the Academy of Paris, and UC Berkeley. Application and enrollment to the UoPeople is done online, ensuring accessibility to applicants all over the country.

Location: Pasadena, California (office)

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about the University of the People’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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Weill Cornell Medical College

Location: New York City

Many students with dreams of becoming a doctor are faced with the reality that medical school is one of the most challenging and expensive programs to pursue, especially in the United States. But the good news is more and more medical schools, and colleges are working towards providing affordable or even just downright free medical programs. One of them is the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, which has been serving the community for more than five decades.

Weill Cornell awards substantial financial aid to its students through the concept of demonstrated need, which is based on the capacity of the student and their family to pay for tuition. This capacity is determined by the student’s family income, as well as their assets. Weill Cornell deducts the amount that the student is capable of paying (based on their status) from the program’s total cost of attendance. The remaining amount is tagged as the financial need and is then covered by the College. The aid covers not only the tuition fee but also miscellaneous expenses like health insurance and housing.

Also, Weill Cornell provides sizeable annual stipends for its Ph.D. students for living expenses, while scholarships that cover the full tuition and other fees are also awarded. Comprehensive health insurance coverage is also provided, as well as allowances for travel and lodging during events such as research presentations. The broad scope of financial support provided by the Weill Cornell Medical College earns them a well-deserved spot on our list.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about Weill Cornell Medical College’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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Curtis Institute of Music

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Those hoping to pursue further education in the field of music but are hesitant because of the costs it might entail should look no further than the Curtis Institute of Music. Dedicated to providing world-class musical education to those with the talent and potential, the Institute has a generous all-scholarship policy that covers the complete cost of tuition for both undergraduate and graduate students and is not dependent on the financial capacity of the individual.

For graduate students, this yearly coverage is worth up to $54,000 – an amount that many talented budding musicians would not have been able to procure for their education otherwise. But the Curtis Institute’s commitment to accessibility doesn’t stop there: they also provide financial assistance for living expenses, student employment, grants for housing and food, as well as the usual loan programs and government-funded financial assistance.

Curtis’s small student population is one of the reasons for the sustainability of their all-scholarship policy, with around only 175 students currently enrolled in their programs. This also allows for smaller class sizes and more hands-on instruction and opportunities for every student. The Curtis Institute is truly a one of a kind school that anyone with a music talent would love to be a part of.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about the Curtis Institute of Music’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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New York University Grossman School of Medicine

Location: New York City

More good news for aspiring doctors – the New York University (NYU) Grossman School of Medicine is another institution that offers free tuition for potential med students who meet their criteria. The value of the full-tuition coverage they offer to their students has a hefty value of more than $57,000 per year, which translates to more accessibility to students from low-income households.

The Grossman School of Medicine does not require proof of financial need or academic merit for a student to qualify for their scholarship. The only condition to be fulfilled is for the student to meet the minimum satisfactory performance indicated in the NYU Grossman School of Medicine’s Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy.

For expenses beyond the tuition fee, students of the School of Medicine can apply for institutional and federal loans, independent scholarships, and work-study options for additional coverage. Aside from being one of the rare institutions where full-tuition coverage is available, the School is also highly acclaimed in terms of academic excellence. The most recent U.S. News & World Report ranking named it as one of the top five Best Graduate Schools in the country.

Graduate Program with Free Tuition: MD (Medical Doctor) Program

Find out more about the New York University Grossman School of Medicine’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Yes, even what is probably the most famous name among universities also has a free tuition program for graduate students deemed eligible. Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) has committed to accessible education for all through a variety of funding packages for their Ph.D. and master’s degree students.

It is to be noted, however, that it is the Ph.D. programs that can mainly be considered as those with free tuition. For students taking master’s degrees, Harvard advises them to consult directly with their financial aid office to personalize the type of financial support they can receive from the university and other sources.

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has a remarkable tiered tuition structure wherein the cost of attendance lowers after every year completed by the student. Even so, it may still be difficult for students to afford this. Thus, the tuition and fees for Ph.D. programs can be covered in full by grants and fellowships under the standard funding package provided by Harvard. For other expenses like housing, a stipend is also provided for the student’s first two years. For their third and fourth year, assistantships and fellowships are combined with stipends for continued coverage. In the student’s final year, research support is given. All in all, students taking GSAS’s doctorate programs can be assured of low-cost or even tuition-free education during their entire stay at Harvard.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about Harvard University’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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Yale University

Location: New Haven, Connecticut

The presence of several Ivy League universities on this list might surprise you, as they are not mainly known for their budget-friendly tuition and fees. However, quite a lot of these prestigious schools offer free tuition and financial subsidies for students with family incomes that fall under a specific range or even without any conditions, especially for doctorate students. The famous Yale University offers funding that is pretty much equivalent to free tuition for Ph.D. students under its Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

One academic year for a Ph.D. at Yale University’s graduate school is estimated to cost around $44,500, but this is fully covered by a five-year fellowship awarded to all their Ph.D. students. A stipend intended for twelve months and amounting to $32,700 or the University also provides higher, generally intended for living expenses. In addition, Yale has even put into place subsidies that are meant to support not just the student but also their family members. The University covers comprehensive health insurance (inclusive of hospitalization coverage) for Ph.D. students and their children. At the same time, those with children under the age of 18 can also avail of a family support subsidy. The scope of financial support given by Yale is impressive and allows their student to avoid resorting to debt just to pursue their education.

And it doesn’t stop there. For emergency cases wherein the student might incur expenses that are unforeseen or beyond their capacity, they may even apply for support via the Dean’s Emergency Fund.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about Yale University’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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Brown University

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Brown University is the alma mater of dozens of rich and famous personalities, including multimillionaire actress Emma Watson, so most people would probably not associate Brown with something like free tuition. But Brown University has an excellent financing program for its Ph.D. students that even covers international students. Brown also has some limited but still helpful options for master’s degree takers that vary by department. However, those under master’s degree programs are still eligible for financial aid in the form of federal student loans, as well as allowances from conference travel funds. Student employment is also another option to augment tuition and fees for master’s degree programs.

Meanwhile, Brown’s coverage for Ph.D. students is the main reason for the University’s placement on our list of free tuition graduate programs. The Graduate School guarantees financial support for its doctorate students for five years, which students can earn by taking on assistantships, proctorship, or fellowship. This funding already covers subsidies for the student’s medical and dental insurance, health services, and tuition. It also provides students with a stipend that can be used for their living expenses on campus. Aside from these internal offerings, students who require additional coverage and funding can also apply for external funding.

Doctorate students who go beyond the five years and are no longer covered by the guaranteed funding can still apply for extended support in their sixth year or beyond through the Dissertation Completion Proposal (DCP) initiative. Brown University also covers student’s travel expenses incurred for research.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about Brown University’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) doesn’t exactly offer zero tuition options. Still, it makes up for it with the variety of financing options and stipends it has for its graduate students. It also doesn’t hurt that the University is located in Chapel Hill – one of the most affordable university towns when it comes to the cost of living. The majority of UNC’s financial support options are composed of stipends from fellowships and assistantships that require specific criteria like performance and recommendations to qualify, as well as grants and scholarships.

UNC’s service stipends involve putting in hours as a trainee, teaching, or research assistant, while there is also a non-service stipend that simply functions as financial aid and does not require the student to work. It is also possible for a student to receive both types of stipends, should they qualify.

Other than the funding directly managed by the University, there are also a handful of external funding sources that students can opt for if they need additional financial support. These fundings apply to undertakings like collaborations on projects, independent research work, and other related academic endeavors. The University of North Carolina has a dedicated resource where students can look into sources of funding called the Graduate Funding Information Center.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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Duke University

Location: Durham, North Carolina

Ph.D. candidates looking for exceptional financial support packages should check out Duke University’s The Graduate School.

Doctorate students are eligible for Duke University’s guaranteed funding package, which is comprised of five years’ worth of stipends and coverage of tuition and other fees, plus full health insurance coverage for six years. On top of that, their Ph.D. programs have other forms of financial support for areas not covered by the guaranteed funding; however, students should note that these vary from department to department. Each department also has different types of support for Ph.D. students who are in their sixth year and beyond and are no longer covered by the five-year funding.

To fund graduate expenses, students may also be asked to take part in assistantships in teaching and research, and appointments in training programs. Fellowships are also awarded. For master’s degree takers, however, Duke University only offers federal financial aid in general. Still, students can inquire with their specific department to check other financial support packages that are specific to their degree program.

Duke also has a Medical Expense / Financial Hardship Program that is intended to support Ph.D. students who may find themselves struggling financially due to health-related expenses and provides up to $5,000 in grants (higher coverage can be accommodated upon request with the Dean). This program can also cover financial difficulties unrelated to medical expenses.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about Duke University’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Established in 1861, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university with global appeal. It is most known for its exceptional teaching, research, and innovation with a heavy concentration in science and technology. The university has 30 departments across five schools and one college, offering an array of undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate degree programs.

The graduate programs are the lifeblood of the university’s teaching and research enterprise, ranging from arts, architecture, humanities, and social sciences to science and engineering. While going to MIT can be quite expensive, the university has ensured that deserving students can still achieve their dream degrees. MIT helps families earning less than $90,000 a year by offering deserving students tuition-free degrees. This is made possible through a loan, a part-time job, or both.

For master’s programs in the field of science and engineering, most expenses are paid by research grants (RAs), internal funny money (TAs), or fellowships, rendering many of these graduate degrees, tuition-free. Tuition-free means the fees are charged to the grant, fellowship, or scholarships. Students who are earning their MBAs at Sloan School regularly pay their tuition. However, they can always get their money back from management consulting and Wall Street firms. Some of these firms offer a “tuition-rebate” signing bonus. Most of the financial support is granted for merit while others are provided for financial need or a combination of both.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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Columbia University

Location: Manhattan, New York City

One of the world’s most important centers for research, Columbia University has been providing quality higher education for more than 250 years. It has a comprehensive array of academic programs across three undergraduate schools and thirteen graduate and professional schools. The university also boasts a world-renowned medical center, four affiliated colleges and seminaries, twenty-five libraries, and more than a hundred research centers and institutes.

Its robust research tradition means Columbia University is one of the best educational institutions for graduate studies. They always make it a point to support students financially by offering loans to low-income families, making some of the degrees tuition-free. For graduate programs, students can still avail of free tuition through applying for scholarships, grants, and fellowships. The university has internal fellowships for specific graduate degrees, including those in the field of modern foreign language, humanities, and social sciences.

Some of these scholarships and fellowships have specific requirements and qualifications. For example, the George W. Ellis Fellowship is available for graduate students who are residents of Vermont or who have graduated from an accredited university or college in Vermont.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about Columbia University’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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Texas A&M University

Location: College Station, Texas

Home to more than 69,000 students, Texas A&M University is located in the heart of the Houston-Dallas-Austin triangle. It is one of the most prestigious universities in the country that offers high-quality academic programs. So far, the university has 133 undergraduate degree programs, 175 master’s degree programs, and 92 doctoral degree programs.

For graduate students, finances are not a barrier to achieving their goals. The university has a comprehensive list of grants, fellowships, and scholarships for those pursuing their master’s degrees, effectively attaining them tuition-free.

Many of these grants are merit-based, but some consider the students’ needs. Some of the notable grants include the Federal TEACH Grant, Texas Aggie Graduate Grant (TAGG), the Teas Public Education Grant (TPEG), and many more. Students can also avail of graduate assistantships. If they want to get financial assistance without rendering service, then applying for graduate fellowships is the best way to go. The fellowship packages vary from $1,000 to over $30,000. Some even include funds for insurance and tuition and fees.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about Texas A&M University’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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Stanford University

Location: Stanford, California

Founded in 1891, Stanford University has always been a place for discovery, innovation, expression, and discourse. Today, the university is comprised of seven schools and 18 interdisciplinary institutes with more than 16,000 students, 2,100 faculties, and 1,800 postdoctoral scholars. It is one of the leading institutions that offer excellent graduate programs.

Graduate students at Stanford University can avail of free tuition through various financial support. They can fund their program with a variety of sources, including fellowships, grants, and external scholarships. Most fellowship programs provide stipend and tuition support. Students are not expected to render service or repay the funding. Tuition fellowships at Stanford for master’s students are usually merit-based, awarded along with the offer of admission. There are also need-based grants available. Many assistantships programs are also available.

Apart from the university-based fellowships, grants, and scholarships, there is also financial assistance from external fellowships. There is also a GSE Student Emergency Fund for graduate students who experience a financial emergency or unanticipated expenses.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about Stanford University’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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Princeton University

Location: Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University is an independent, coeducational, and nondenominational institution. It is widely known for its academic prestige in offering programs in the arts and humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. It is known for its globally acclaimed research distinction. The university also has a generous financial aid program, ensuring that talented students from different economic backgrounds can afford a Princeton education.

The university is known for grants that cover 100% tuition. This type of financial support does not have to be repaid. For graduate programs, free tuition is also made possible by various funding that varies by department

There is a myriad of the university, departmental, and program fellowships to choose from. First-year students of the Humanities and Social Sciences divisions receive a University Fellowship, which provides a full tuition arrangement and a free plus 12-month stipend. The same scheme is available for first-year graduate students in the Natural Sciences and Engineering divisions! They are entitled to the First Year Fellowship, providing them with full tuition and fees plus a 10-month stipend. They can also avail of the summer support up to an additional $8,000.

Assistantships in research or instruction can also be an ideal source of funding for graduate students. They can receive up to $33,800 in salaries.

Graduate Programs with Free Tuition:

Find out more about Princeton University’s free tuition options for graduate students.

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