When the trustees of Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art voted this week to start charging for an undergraduate degree, it ended the institution’s lengthy reign as the most famous tuition-free private college in America, The New York Times reports. But it was never the only such place. While most colleges grapple with the growing burden of student debt, a few outliers across the country and even New York State offer a college education for the one price that looks good in any economy: nothing. To qualify for Cooper Union’s largess, applicants had to prove themselves on the highest tier of the highest tier of academic or artistic achievement. That might strike some New Yorkers as easy compared with the requirements at some of the other free colleges. One requires students to work on a ranch, milking cows and harvesting alfalfa. Another requires them to build a container ship. And the national service academies, of course, require years of service in support of a robust national defense.
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