What Are Tuition Waivers?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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A tuition waiver is a cancellation of tuition and fees associated with college education for qualifying students, usually only for public schools. Waivers enable students to attend college when they might not otherwise be able to afford it. Financial aid offices have information about the available tuition waivers at their institution and can help students apply for them. Students may qualify even if they think they do not, and it is always advisable to ask.

Many regions provide tuition waiver programs for low income students, allowing them to attend public colleges and universities without paying fees as long as their incomes fall below a certain level. Members of certain groups of people may also qualify; in the United States, for example, American Indians, veterans, and blind students can often attend public institutions for free. In individual states, foster children may also qualify for tuition waivers, and there may be additional programs in place to fund college for other students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

To receive a tuition waiver, the student needs to fill out the application paperwork and provide documentation. For an American Indian, for example, it would be necessary to provide information from the Bureau of Indian Affairs testifying to the student's tribal affiliation and status. Likewise, veterans need letters from the government providing information about their service and discharge status; dishonorably discharged members of the military usually do not qualify for benefits like tuition waivers.


Tuition waivers may cover just tuition, or tuition and fees. Students still need funding for living expenses. They may be eligible for other financial assistance such as grants and loans, and can discuss options with a financial aid counselor. Many public colleges and universities also offer tuition waivers for faculty and staff as well as their children. Children of college and university employees who are preparing for college may want to ask about such programs if they are concerned about affordability.

At private educational institutions, it may be possible to obtain a tuition waiver. Some private organizations provide tuition assistance to needy students, and colleges may also fund students of low income or members of minority groups with internal scholarship programs. Students concerned about the cost of a private education can discuss their options with a financial aid counselor. These schools may also offer fee waivers for their applications, and in the process of requesting a waiver, the student may want to ask about tuition assistance programs and financial aid.


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