Free College Tuition Programs for Adults

The rising cost of college and growing need for postsecondary education and training has generated great interest in free college tuition programs. Yet many of these programs aim to serve recent high school graduates and little is known about the programs open to adults.

To fill this knowledge gap, AIR, under a grant funded by Walmart, conducted a scan of free college tuition program websites in spring 2021. This scan culminated in a report, a downloadable database of programs, an interactive map, and a webinar that explores how free college tuition programs for adults might better leverage employers in establishing and advancing programs.

Free College Tuition Programs report cover


Free College Tuition Programs for Adults: The Current Landscape and Directions for the Future captures the findings from the scan and concludes with considerations for practitioners and policymakers as well as research needs for advancing the field.

View the report 
View the executive summary


Download an Excel version of the database of programs

Email us for a Stata version of the database or for the codebook. 


View the interactive map

Screenshot of Free College Tuition Programs for Adults map



Free College Tuition Programs for Adults: Where Are They, How Do They Work, and How Can Employers and Colleges Work Together to Grow Such Programs?

View the webinar slides



The project’s report coauthors are Alexandria Walton Radford, Katherine Hughes, Roman Ruiz, Ji Hyun Yang, and Christopher Carvajal Rivera. That said, the project report could not have been completed without the assistance of our numerous colleagues at AIR who contributed to the project as a whole. Robert Calderon and Montrischa Essoka provided project management support. Catherine Baker, Beth Brinly, Wendy Brors, and Stephanie Veck counseled the project team on how best to engage the workforce development community in this effort. Pierina Hernandez Luperdi, Kyra Martin, Mehek Naqvi, Bradley Salvato, and Angela Su were all instrumental in data collection. In addition, multiple staff shone as they led different aspects of the dissemination activities, including Joanne Blank (report design), Caryl Wenzel (editing), Caitlin Deal (interactive map), Anand Kumar and Meghan Rivera (project website), Emily Loney (webinar), and Sarah Rand (social media campaign).

We also would like to acknowledge the work of other organizations that helped us in compiling our database of adult-eligible free college tuition programs, as well as recognize the funders, practitioners, and researchers who offered valuable perspectives on the landscape of free college tuition programs and this particular project. Please refer to the report’s acknowledgment section, where we name these organizations and individuals.

Finally, we give a very special thanks to Shannon Rowan, Sean Murphy, and Josh Frazier-Sparks of Walmart for their thoughtful suggestions and feedback as we developed this project. We are also grateful to Walmart for its financial support, which made this work possible.

Alexandria Radford headshot
Senior Director, Center for Applied Research in Postsecondary Education (CARPE)