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Free College in Colorado

Learn about the recent changes in Colorado law and how they can help you study in college for free!

Jun 25, 2024
  • Education
Free college in Colorado

✨ 5-second summary

  • Students at public colleges in Colorado from families earning $90,000 or less are eligible for full reimbursement of their educational fees.
  • The Incentives can fully cover up to 2 years of college.

On May 30th, 2024, Governor Polis signed Incentives for Post-Secondary Education, creating the Colorado Promise: Two Free Years of College Expanded effort. In this article, we'll explain what it means to you, how to qualify, and list a few colleges in Colorado you can apply to.

Free tuition for students from low-income families

In Colorado, fewer than 50% of high school graduates pursue a college degree, which is well below the national average – 61.4% according to the US BLS. In recent years, universities across the state have stepped up efforts to change that by offering free tuition to low-income students, culminating in the Incentives for Post-Secondary Education.

Starting in the fall of 2024, students from families with incomes up to $90,000 attending public colleges in Colorado can receive a full reimbursement of their education fees. The tax credit covers the amount paid for tuition and fees in the prior academic year for students in their first 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 in his statement.

This program covers up to the first 65 credits you take (not including concurrent enrollment, AP/IB, military credit, or credit for prior learning).

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How to qualify

Students are eligible for the tax credit for any semester or term in which they meet the following criteria:

  • Be a Colorado resident
  • Enroll in a public postsecondary institution within two years of graduating from high school
  • Seek a degree or other credential
  • Complete a FAFSA (or CASFA for non-US citizens who have lived in Colorado for at least 3 years before graduating from high school)
  • Maintain a minimum semester GPA of 2.5
  • Enroll in 6 or more credits per semester
  • File state taxes to request the credit

Note: There is no separate application for this program. Your college will automatically notify you if you're eligible in the prior academic year.

Other programs in Colorado

15 colleges in Colorado take part in the Promise Programs or Additional Institutional Affordability Programs to help make your studies affordable. They usually cover at least tuition. Some common requirements that differ from the list above include:

  • Family income of $60,000-70,000 or less (or independent students below $50,000)
  • Maintain a 2.0-3.0 GPA and 67% credit completion rate
  • Not have attempted more than 130 institutional credits
  • Enroll in 6-12 or more credits per semester
Best colleges in Colorado: Colorado State University

Best colleges in Colorado

Colorado is known for its engineering and applied sciences degree programs in research universities. Most of the 4-year schools are located in Colorado Springs, Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins. Here are some of the best colleges in Colorado you can apply to:

University of Colorado Boulder

CU Boulder is 254th in the 2024 QS World University Rankings and one of only 34 US public research universities belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities. This university offers over 90 undergraduate programs across many majors: from Architecture and Business to Performing Arts and Space.

Colorado State University

Another top research university in Colorado, CSU was recognized in 2022 as one of 10 top research institutions in the world contributing to solving the COVID pandemic. The university offers 74 undergraduate degree programs, with over 60% of students receiving financial aid even before the new bill.

Colorado School of Mines

The 2nd public college with the highest return on investment in the US by Money Magazine, Colorado School of Mines is a public research university focused on applied science and engineering. There are 20 majors for you to choose from, and many research facilities to let you explore your passions.

University of Colorado, Denver

CU Denver is the 45th best university in the world for nursing in the QS Rankings. Located in the heart of Colorado, it offers an excellent education experience and over 80 on-campus undergraduate programs in numerous fields, such as Media, Public Health, and Education.

University of Northern Colorado

Recognized as the top university for social mobility, UNC is an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution and serves more than 40% of undergraduates who are the first in their family to attend college. Over 100 undergraduate degree programs are available to you at UNC.


Colorado is home to many outstanding public colleges. Starting in the fall of 2024, you have the opportunity to study in your home state for free! Incentives for Post-Secondary Education cover up to the first 65 credits you take which usually adds up to about 2 years of college. However, if you have substantial concurrent enrollment credits, you may be able to complete an entire Bachelor’s degree through the tuition and fee reimbursement program.

There are also other initiatives in Colorado that can help make your education affordable: Promise Programs and Additional Institutional Affordability Programs. Choose a college, send your application, make sure you fit all the requirements, and get one step closer to your dreams for free!

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