Colorado Law Gives Qualifying Students 2 Years of Tuition-Free College

Gov. Jared Polis signed a law giving qualifying students free tuition and fees through a tax credit for the first 65 college credits.
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Updated on May 31, 2024
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  • The Colorado Promise Act: Two Free Years of College Expanded, gives students from families earning $90,000 or less annually a tax credit covering tuition and fees after grants and scholarships are used.
  • The tax credit is valid at any public Colorado four-year institution, technical college, or community college.
  • The tax credit begins during the 2025 tax year.
  • Students must either complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Colorado Application for State Financial Aid (CASFA) and qualify for in-state tuition to apply.

Colorado just gave students two years of tuition-free college at Colorado public four-year institutions, technical colleges, and community colleges.

Gov. Jared Polis signed the Colorado Promise: Two Free Years of College Expanded, also known as House Bill 24-1340, into law on May 30, 2024 at a ceremony at Mountain Range High School in Westminster.

The Colorado Promise gives students from families earning $90,000 or less a year free tax credits to cover tuition and fees not covered by scholarships and grants for the first 65 credit hours. That adds up to about two years of college.

"Two years at any public four-year college, community college, or trade school are now free for more Coloradans! This will strengthen Colorado's workforce, provide new pathways for students to gain in-demand skills, and save Coloradans thousands of dollars - helping ensure that higher education is affordable for everyone," Governor Polis said in a statement.

The credit will begin in the 2025 tax year. So once students or their families file their taxes, they can gain back the money spent on tuition and fees through their refund.

To qualify, students must:

  • Enroll in a college within two years of graduating high school or an equivalent in Colorado
  • Seek a degree
  • Qualify for in-state tuition
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or Colorado Application for State Financial Aid (CASFA)
  • Have a family income of $90,000 or less per year
  • Hold a 2.5 or higher GPA

The law requires higher education institutions to give each student a statement with their eligibility and Colorado Promise Act credit amount.

Other Colorado Free Education Programs

Some Colorado schools already offer free tuition to students under a certain income threshold.

The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) is the latest Colorado university to announce free tuition to qualifying students. The UNC Tuition Promise gives all current and new students from families making $65,000 or less per year up to $5,836 toward tuition per semester.

Colorado State University Pueblo offers free tuition to in-state first-time or transfer students from families making $70,000 or less. The University of Colorado Boulder provides a free tuition program for Pell Grant-eligible students and a free education to in-state, first-generation Pell Grant-eligible students majoring in engineering.

The state has provided free education incentives in the last two years to build a workforce of graduates in other critical fields as well.

In March 2023, Colorado expanded scholarships and free community college through the Universal High School Scholarship Program, a $1,500 scholarship to graduating class of 2024 students seeking certificates, apprenticeships, or degrees in high-demand fields.

A few months later, the Colorado Community College System announced the Career Advance Colorado program. This similar program covered tuition, fees, course materials, and other costs for students pursuing in-demand careers starting in fall 2023. All students must do is apply for financial aid by filling out the FAFSA or CASFA and enroll in a participating college.