The average cost of tuition for colleges is increasing but there are ways to get a college education for free and nearly free.

Education of the highest quality should be "free as air and water."  This reflects the founder of Cooper Union, Peter Cooper's, fundamental belief towards American higher education. For 150 years, the College has admitted students based on merit alone and provided each with a full-tuition scholarship, which is valued at $140,000 as of 2010.  Cooper Union offers accredited undergraduate and Master's degree programs exclusively in the fields of architecture, fine arts, and engineering. It's three schools are consistently ranked in the top among colleges in the U.S. Donations from the school's illustrious alumni have made the free tuition policy possible.

Miami Dade College has rolled out a new scholarship program called the American Dream scholarship that will cover 60 credits, enough to get a two-year degree or start in one of the four-year degree programs offered by the college. The new scholarship qualifications require students to have a 3.0 grade-point average and score well enough on entry tests to show they don’t need remedial math or reading courses. As part of his goal, President Obama has challenged community colleges  to produce 5 million new graduates by 2020.

In Massachusetts,  a new program announced by Governor Deval Patrick and UMass-Amherst Chancellor Robert Holub, will allow community college students enter UMass tuition free if they have a G.P.A. of 3.0 or higher. Currently the program applies to UMass' Amherst campus but the Governor's vision is to spread it to the other campuses as part of his plan to made college education more affordable. The program was developed by the UMass chancellor and the state's secretary of higher education to help students from community colleges go further. Besides the admission guarantee and tuition waiver, valued at $1,714 a year, the program will make special scholarships available to community college students going to UMass to help with book expenses. It will also offer them priority review of financial aid packages ahead of other transfer students.

How about the top schools such as Harvard University? If students come from a family making less than $60,000 in annual income, Harvard will waive the $35,000 tuition. This is part of the university's attempt to increase diversity of their student population.