Earlier this month, the Project on Student Debt released its report on the level of college loan debt graduates carry, and the news is not good.

The average debt load for those who graduated from college last year is a burdensome $29,400, and 71% of graduates now leave college with debt, compared with 68% in 2008. Over the past four years, debt levels have risen about 6% each year.

There are alternatives to onerous debt, one of which is attending a school that is tuition-free. There are several well-regarded schools that still supply a quality education for no cost -- although their numbers are dwindling. One of the better known schools, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, this year announced the end of its own full-tuition scholarship policy, which educated students for free for over 100 years.

Though these colleges are often small and specialized in their instruction, they are well worth consideration. Here are four schools that still provide a great education -- at no charge to students.

Curtis Institute of Music
For the musically inclined, the Curtis Institute of Music provides an intimate educational environment within its urban location in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The school has a student population of about 125 and graduated 49 students  in the spring of 2013, some of whom were planning to obtain graduate degrees at Juilliard and Yale, in addition to other schools.

Curtis officially lists its tuition and fees as $2,545, but provides full tuition scholarships to those that gain acceptance. Fewer than 7% that apply are accepted by the conservatory.

College of the Ozarks
This small, Christian school in Point Lookout, Missouri, charges $18,330 in tuition and fees per year -- unless students agree to work on campus for 15 hours while school is in session, plus two 40-hour weeks between sessions. This schedule effectively gives students a full scholarship, and the school proudly sports the nickname, "Hard Work U". In fact, the college is so committed to this concept that it does not participate in either public or private loan programs.

The college offers a wide range of courses and a great variety of degree majors and minors, as well as pre-law, pre-medicine, and pre-veterinary courses.

Alice Lloyd College
Founded by former Boston native Alice Spencer Geddes Lloyd, Alice Lloyd College also has a work requirement in order to make its offerings cost-free. The school serves more than 100 Appalachian counties in Kentucky -- where the school is located -- as well as in Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The school guarantees full tuition remission to all qualified students from those areas.

The school offers both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees as well as pre-professional programs.

Webb Institute
This school is the most specialized of all, offering its population of about 80 students engineering degrees in naval architecture and marine engineering. The college, located in Glen Cove, New York, is nearly 125 years old and still gives its students a tuition-free education. Academic requirements are tough, and the school expects students to have at least an 85% average in physics, chemistry, and mathematics -- as well as meet the health requirements necessary for the rugged lifestyle the college demands.

It's a rigorous educational experience, but the school's placement rate can't be beat: 100% of students find jobs upon graduation.

There are several fine military academies that offer a no-cost education, as well. For those who don't want to commit to military service, however, these colleges offer quality, personalized attention, and character building -- all for free. With college debt reaching epidemic proportions, these schools are definitely worth a second look.

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