Is Community College Free?

August 15, 2023

is community college free

Is Community College Free? This blog will answer that question and explore state-by-state policies on providing free or reduced-cost tuition. Before we dive into that topic, let’s take a broad look at why one might consider community college in the first place.

 Why community college?

Whether you’re a high school student thinking about next steps, or an adult contemplating returning to school, it’s worth considering community college. Here are some of the many advantages…

  1. Tuition: Yes, community college still has tuition. However, before scholarships and financial aid, in-district community colleges generally cost around $3,400 per year, while the average 4-year state college costs around $10,000 per year. This difference is far from negligible!
  2. Ability to transfer: Often, students opt to complete a 2-year associate’s degree at a community college before transferring to a 4-year institution as an economical path to a bachelor’s degree. This option is great for reducing costs, and useful for those who want to dip their toes in higher education before committing to a 4-year program.
  3. Flexibility: Attending community college allows many students to study near home, which means they avoid paying for campus housing. Plus, evening and asynchronous courses may be available, allowing students with jobs and family responsibilities to build course schedules around their already-busy lives.
  4. Degree options for high-paying jobs: In addition to liberal arts education, community colleges offer a range of technical degrees and certificates, which directly prepare students for specific jobs. Associate’s degrees can lead to jobs that can pay over 60k a year, such as electro-technicians, ultrasound technicians, and physical therapist assistants. Click here to read about the 20 Highest Paying Associate’s Degrees in 2023.

So, is community college free?

Basically, it depends on where you live. While no national program supports free community college, many states have programs to help students finance 2 years (or more) of postsecondary education.

These state programs tend to offer scholarships based on financial need, academic merit, field of study, and/or age. Many need-based scholarships are “last-dollar,” meaning, they pay for remaining fees after national- and state-based financial aid has been applied. Continue reading to see if your state offers covers full or partial tuition for community college.

Programs for free (or less expensive) community college by state:


The Arkansas Futures Grant provides scholarships for 2-years of community and technical colleges, funding studies part- or full-time in approved programs in STEM and other high-demand areas. Students must have graduated from an Arkansas public school or verify Arkansas residency. Recipients must participate in mentoring and community service, and they are required to reside in Arkansas for several years after completing the degree or certification.


In the California Promise Program, colleges can waive enrollment fees for first-time, full-time students who do not qualify for the California Promise Grant. Students must be California residents demonstrating financial need. Undocumented applicants are eligible.


Pledge to Advance CT (PACT) covers tuition for first-time, full-time students at community and technical colleges. Applicants must hold Connecticut high school diplomas (or equivalents). Entry is accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and there are no income requirements.

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The Student Excellence Equals Degree (SEED) scholarship provides free tuition for up to 5-years. Delaware high school graduates must meet GPA requirements and maintain enrollment and GPA requirements to stay covered. This scholarship was expanded in 2021 to include Delaware residents of all ages, so adults over 25 can also apply.


The Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) and Zell Miller grants are available to students in Georgia. While HOPE covers only a portion of a student’s tuition, the Zell Miller will cover the school’s standard tuition rate. Students must maintain minimum GPAs at certain checkpoints (for HOPE, this is 2.0, for Zell Miller, 3.5).


Hawaii Promise covers tuition at the University of Hawaii Community College, including tuition, fees, books, supplies, and transportation for up to 8-semesters. Funding amounts are based on enrollment level and need. Students must be Hawai’i residents and enroll in degree-seeking programs at UH Community College for at least 6-credits per semester.

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The Next Level Jobs Workforce Ready Grant pays tuition and fees for eligible certificate programs for up to 2-years. Indiana residents with high school diplomas or equivalents are eligible. Students must enroll half- or full-time and meet certain standards for academic progress.


Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship covers the gap between financial aid and the costs of tuition for certificates and degrees. Eligible programs change by the year depending on job demand. Students must hold Iowa high school diplomas or equivalents, enroll at least part-time in an eligible program, and maintain ongoing requirements.


The Kansas Promise Scholarship provides scholarships for students attending Kansas community and technical colleges in specific fields, including agriculture, natural resources, education, security, and transportation. Students must be recent Kansas high school graduates or Kansas residents for the past 3-years. Dependents of military service members stationed in Kansas are also eligible. Once enrolled, students must demonstrate financial need and satisfy the requirements of the scholarship agreement.

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The last-dollar Work Ready Kentucky Scholarship provides funds to Kentucky residents without associate’s degrees, covering up to 60 credits in eligible programs. Applicants must hold high school diplomas or equivalents, or be currently enrolled in a Kentucky high school or GED program. This scholarship is not income- or GPA-based.


The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) is a merit-based scholarship for Louisiana residents who enroll full-time in one of the Louisiana Public College and Universities, a school in the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, or another approved institution. To be eligible for one of the four award categories, one must enroll in college within a year of high school graduation and fulfill SAT/ACT and GPA requirements.

Over 21? You may also qualify for the M.J. Foster Promise Program, which covers the costs of tuition, fees, and books/supplies for certain programs in growing industry sectors. Students can receive a maximum of $6,400 over a period of three years.


Intended specifically for recent high school grads, Maine’s Free College Scholarship covers tuition and fees at any of the 7 community colleges across the state. There are no income or age limits. Students are eligible if they graduated high school in Maine between 2020 and 2025 and agree to live in Maine while enrolled.

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The Community College Promise Scholarship covers eligible students up to $5,000 to cover remaining expenses after financial aid has been applied. Maryland high school graduates and GED recipients may apply, and they must attend the community college located within the county or region in which they live. Applicants must hold and maintain certain GPA requirements. Household income limits apply.


Michigan Reconnect covers last-dollar tuition and fees for adult learners looking to go back to school to pursue degrees and certificates. The program only provides free tuition in-district (those attending out-of-district schools must still pay the difference between tuition rates). This program is available to Michigan residents over 25 with high school diplomas (or equivalents) who have not yet completed a college degree.


The A+ Scholarship Program provides scholarships to students attending community colleges or vocational/technical schools. Students must have graduated from a participating high school in the A+ program. They must maintain 95% attendance and a 2.5 GPA, and participate in 50 hours of tutoring or mentoring. Adult learners are also eligible if they have not earned a bachelor’s degree and meet certain financial criteria.

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The Montana Promise Grant Program provides last-dollar support to students enrolled in a community college, tribal college, or two-year state institution. This program prioritizes students with financial aid, students applying for programs in high-demand labor markets, and recent high-school graduates. Once enrolled, students must meet GPA and community service requirements.


The Nevada Promise Scholarship provides financial aid and fee coverage for Nevada high school graduates for up to 3-years of community college. Applicants must have received high school diplomas or equivalents in Nevada. Once enrolled, students must attend trainings and complete community service requirements.

New Jersey

The New Jersey Community College Opportunity Grant awards scholarships to low-income high school graduates, covering up to 4-years of in-district tuition and fees. Students must meet certain financial requirements, enroll in 6-credits per semester, and maintain satisfactory academic progress.

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New Mexico

The New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship and New Mexico Lottery Scholarship cover tuition and fees at New Mexico public colleges and universities. Students returning to college later in life are eligible for the Opportunity Scholarship and can enroll full- or part-time. Recent high school graduates are eligible for the Lottery Scholarship if they enroll full-time and maintain a 2.5 GPA.

New York

New York’s Excelsior Scholarship Program covers up to 4-years at SUNY or CUNY colleges, as well as community colleges and the statutory colleges at Cornell University and Alfred University. Eligible NY residents have high school diplomas (or equivalents) and meet certain financial need requirements. Students must complete 30 credits per year and agree to reside in New York for a period of time after their studies.

North Carolina

The North Carolina Longleaf Commitment Grant directs federal COVID-19 relief funds toward tuition for low-income students. Students can access up to $2,800 per year for 2-years at any of the state’s 58 community colleges. The grant is designed for NC high school graduates who received diplomas (or equivalents) in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Students must enroll in 6-credits per semester to receive the full award.

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Oklahoma’s Promise offers scholarships for college tuition at Oklahoma 2- or 4-year institutions. Qualified candidates are Oklahoma high school students meeting certain financial requirements.


The Oregon Promise Grant helps cover tuition costs at any Oregon community college for up to 90 credits. Students must apply for this grant during their senior year of high school or immediately after their GED completion. Applicants must be Oregon residents with 2.0 GPAs or higher (or equivalent GED scores). Financial requirements may change depending on year and available funding.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island’s Promise provides 2-years of free college at a state higher education institution, covering any degree program. This college plan is open to RI residents enrolling in college full-time immediately following high school. Recipients must agree to live and work in Rhode Island following their studies.

South Carolina

The South Carolina Workforce Scholarship program covers tuition and fees at any of the state’s 16 technical colleges, prioritizing high-demand areas such as healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, construction, transportation, criminal justice, and education. SC residents may apply, and recipients must fulfill certain GPA, community service, and employment requirements.

The “Live to Chase” initiative also offers free college tuition at Spartanburg Community College. This last-dollar program is open to students who take 6-credits and maintain a 2.2 GPA.

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Tennessee Promise covers tuition for 2-years at community colleges and technical schools. The program also pairs students with mentors to help navigate the college application process. High school seniors with degrees (or equivalents) from eligible Tennessee high schools can apply. Recipients must maintain GPA, attendance, and community service requirements.


The 802 Opportunity Grant offers free tuition at the Community College of Vermont to students who qualify for financial aid. Students can choose from over 30 programs, in-person or online. Vermont residents of any age can apply, and new and returning CCV students are eligible.


Virginia G3 Programs can help cover tuition for programs in healthcare, childhood education, information technology, and public safety at the state’s 23 community colleges. Full- and part-time students residing in Virginia who qualify for financial aid are eligible.

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The Washington College Grant allows residents to attend public colleges tuition-free or for a reduced cost. The grant covers costs at approved programs full- or part-time, and amounts vary based on financial need. Recent high school graduates or working-age adults are eligible.

 West Virginia

West Virginia Invests covers tuition for any state community or technical college in on-demand, high-paying fields. Eligible applicants are WV residents who have not yet earned college degrees. Once enrolled, students must comply with policies for satisfactory academic success and complete 2-hours of community service each term.


Wyoming’s Hathaway Scholarship offers tuition assistance for community colleges through 4-tiers of a merit-based scholarship, plus need-based scholarships to supplement merit-based awards. Wyoming students who maintain certain academic requirements are eligible.

Is Community College Free – Final Thoughts

In conclusion, community college is not universally free in the United States. However, depending on the state in which you reside, there may be partial or full scholarship opportunities available.