University of Northern Colorado Announces Free Tuition for Qualifying Students

Starting this fall, current and new in-state students from families making $65,000 or less will receive free tuition and fees.
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Published on February 9, 2024
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  • Students must enroll in at least 12 credit hours, but the school will cover tuition and fees for up to 16.
  • Colorado State University Pueblo and University of Colorado Boulder also offer qualifying students free tuition.
  • The University of Northern Colorado fights college food insecurity by offering free food and toiletries at the Bear Pantry and a meal-sharing program.

The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) is making college more affordable to students who qualify — based on their family's income — by providing them with free tuition.

The UNC Tuition Promise, announced by the school on Jan. 31, gives Colorado students from families making $65,000 or less free tuition starting this fall semester.

"The UNC Tuition Promise exemplifies UNC's commitment to being Students First," President Andy Feinstein said in a press release. "At UNC, we strive to eliminate barriers and offer students an affordable path to earning a degree, bettering their lives and their communities, and contributing to the state of Colorado."

UNC is joining Colorado State University Pueblo and the University of Colorado Boulder in giving free tuition to students who qualify financially.

The Tuition Promise applies to about 1,000 current undergraduate students and is also available for undocumented students. UNC said that students will receive full tuition and fees coverage for up to 16 credit hours or a max of $5,836 per semester.

To qualify, students must:

COF is a trust fund by the state Legislature that provides a tuition stipend to students at participating colleges and universities. Students can apply as early as 13 years old and do not need to reapply.

The FAFSA replaced expected family contribution (EFC) with SAI as an indicator of financial need, not what families are required to pay toward college.

Students with undocumented, noncitizen parents can't submit the FAFSA online due to a technical issue.

If a parent doesn't have a Social Security number, the student cannot currently complete the form online. The U.S. Department of Education has not said when the issue will be fixed, but affected families can still apply by submitting a paper version of the FAFSA through the mail to qualify for aid as soon as possible.

Undocumented, noncitizen students do not qualify for federal student aid. Still, they can complete state aid applications like the CAFSA to receive financial aid packages.

How UNC Continues to Support Students With a Financial Need

UNC's dedication to students with financial needs continues past enrollment through food initiatives to keep students food-secure.

"Here at UNC anyway, we do have a population that, on average, is going to tend to be a little more challenged with food-security issues generally just because of their socioeconomic makeup," John Hancock, assistant vice president for wellness and support previously told BestColleges.

Hancock said UNC prides itself on student social mobility. A significant percentage of students are first-generation college students, and many are eligible for Pell Grants.

UNC hosts the Bear Pantry, where any student, faculty member, or staff member can visit once per week to shop for seven items at no cost. The pantry has everything from nonperishable foods to bread and toiletries.

Students can also apply for free dining hall meals through the Bear Share Meals program through a partnership with the dining hall vendor and a system where students can donate up to three meals to the program.

"We're the Bears, and so we say once a Bear, always a Bear. And we also have this thing about 'Bears give back,'" said Hancock. "So a lot of our students who are Bears and have extra meals on their dining cards can donate those to the pantry, and then we can give those out to students in need."