Free Colleges — This Isn't a Typo

Believe it or not, a handful of colleges charge less tuiton than a bag of theater popcorn. Actually, they are free.The New York Times wrote about one of the schools, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, in today’s edition. Not surprisingly, students submitting 2009 early decision applications to the school, which is an amazing place for engineers, artists and architecture students, jumped 70%.

Peter Cooper, an industrialist and inventor who had less than one year of formal education, founded the school in 1859. Thomas Edison attended Cooper Union and the NAACP and the Red Cross were organized here.

Here are three other schools that offer free tuition:

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Needham, MA. I’d love for my son, a wannabe engineer, to attend this school, which focuses on project-based learning, which is how Ben learns best. But like Cooper Union, the college is incredibly selective so it’s doubtful that an unweighted “A-” kid has a chance.

Deep Spring College, Deep Springs, CA. This is a two-year school plunked down on a working cattle ranch and alfalfa farm near the Nevada state line. Last time I looked the school capped enrollment at 26 (brilliant) male students, who typically transfer to prestigious four-year schools.

Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia. Like the other three schools, this renowned college of music is extremely selective — just 11% make the cut.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution.

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