By Dannie Phan

While a college degree is a minimum requirement for many professions, taking college classes may seem like a pipe dream for many people. College tuition can be prohibitively high. In fact, the average room, board, and tuition across the country have topped over $20,000 since the 2012-13 academic year. On top of that, not everybody can even secure the loans required to pay admission.

But what if you could find a way to take college courses for free? It turns out you can! There are a few ways you can make this happen, depending on your situation.

First, seniors can get free or extremely low-cost college tuition at many schools, through state-wide or school-wide tuition breaks. 

For the younger set, you have options, too. Financial aid is available through the federal government to students who need help reaching their tuition needs, for one thing. While it won’t make it tuition-free, it can help delay the payments until you are in a better place to make them. 

Also, it’s never too soon or too late to start a 529 college savings fund. Whether college is a year away or decades away, putting away whatever you can will make a dint in your tuition price tag.

But if you’re looking for completely complimentary college courses, there are many websites that offer free online courses or Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – some from Ivy League institutions. By setting yourself up on one of these sites you can earn some higher education without spending a dime. Check out the best sites for free college courses online.

Free Online College Classes in 2021

So what are the top free continuing education options?


Online learning is at its best on this website, which includes courses from well-known and respected colleges like Princeton, Yale, University of California, and University of Michigan. Coursera lets you browse through a myriad of subjects and pick those best suited to you. For an extra fee, you can also take exams, graded assignments, and get a final grade in some courses. There are dozens of specializations with university courses that can prepare you for a new career in data science, web development, and marketing. 


With access to some of the nation’s top schools, including Columbia and MIT, edX online classes gives you access to a variety of topics to learn about, including the arts and computer science. Pay separate fees to obtain grades or get a verified certificate of completion. You can work through a degree program for a fee.

Academic Earth

Although you can’t earn college credits for the courses offered on Academic Earth, you can peruse subjects and select a free course based on your interests and goals. Staff at Academic Earth will even organize groupings of courses that can further your learning in some subject areas.

MIT OpenCourseWare

You can access all kinds of free online college courses from the lauded Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for free. You won’t receive credits for the archived courses, some of which are graduate-level studies, but you can take the actual classes. The only expense might be picking up the textbooks used in some of the courses. 

Stanford Online

The platform that prestigious Stanford University uses for all its online courses, Stanford Online allows the public access to open learning courses, too. Online master’s degrees and custom courses are available to fit any needs. The courses are taught by the school’s actual instructors or industry experts and cover practical topics like medicine, education, and engineering. Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits can even be earned through these courses. 


With course offerings ranging from fashion to COVID-19 diagnostics, FutureLearn has gathered courses from schools around the world that it offers free of charge. Like other platforms, obtaining verified certificates or grades will cost an extra fee.

Harvard Online

This online platform provides access to fee-based or free courses from the upscale Harvard University. Browse subject areas like public health, computer science, machine learning, programming, and business, or filter by trending topics to see what’s available. 

Canvas Learning

Canvas takes a network approach to online learning, offering a collection of classes from institutions around the world. Self-styled as a professional development site to help educators hone their skills, Canvas also allows students access to course materials even after the class end-date.

Carnegie Mellon Open Learning

If you thought taking courses at Carnegie Mellon was out of reach, it’s time to reassess that belief. The high-end school uses its online platform to host classes for its registered students and for “independent learners” alike. The courses, offered at your own pace and without an instructor following your progress, offer a variety of topics for your interest and education.

Khan Academy

Well known to those who’ve taken LSAT or MCAT prep courses, for example, Khan Academy also gives you access to online courses ranging from grade school all the way into college-level learning. 

What Will You Learn?

So you see, with all these options for taking college classes online for free, you can upgrade your skills, followup on an area of interest, and even work toward a degree or certificate. With online education and video lectures, it’s even easier to fit courses into your schedule no matter if you’re in the United States or abroad. You’ll get the necessary course materials from some of the nation’s top universities, without putting yourself in massive school debt. Get learning!

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