Admission to the Thoreau College Semester Program is need-blind, meaning that what students are able to pay has no bearing on decision making and, once admitted, there is no set tuition for attendance.  Instead, after completing the admission process a tuition pledge will be decided upon in a conversation. The suggested contribution for students able to cover the full cost of the semester is $6,000. Some students make a contribution up front, others make monthly contributions, and still others pledge contributions in coming years. Books, art supplies, work tools, and camping equipment are provided for all students participating in the program.

The tuition pledge does not include food or housing.  Rooms are available in in Thoreau College housing for $2,000 for the semester.  Rental rooms in shared houses are often available elsewhere in town and students local students are welcome to live at home if they choose.  There will be some shared meals and some food is available for student use from the Thoreau College farm, gardens, and greenhouse and partner organizations and training in cooking, meal planning, and provisioning are incorporated into the curriculum. For the most part, however, students will be responsible for purchasing and preparing their own meals.  Students are also responsible for having their own health insurance coverage and for arranging their own transportation to and from Viroqua.

Financial Process Summary

1. Apply and be accepted to the program

2. Review program budget and philosophy with Thoreau College staff member

3. Create an individual financial pledge based on your ability to contribute

4. Create a payment plan, such as up-front payment, monthly installment, etc.

5. Come to Thoreau College!


Thoreau College is strongly committed to making our programs accessible to all admitted students with a sincere desire to participate in the program. After an offer of admission has been made, we will meet with each admitted student to have an open and transparent financial conversation about the financial structure of the college and the student’s personal situation. Student and college will then decide upon a reasonable financial pledge. Our goal is accessibility — we would like for potential students to consider our educational project as realizable for them as Thoreau’s own humble experiment in deliberate living at Walden Pond.

This approach is in line with Thoreau College’s core philosophy. Thoreau himself was a man wary of those institutions that “get up a subscription of dollars and cents,” where students “play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game.”  The financial well-being of the college is a shared practical responsbility, as well as an opporunity to reflect on the nature of our needs, wants, and goals, both at present and in the future. Our ideal is that students have the freedom to think about their financial pledge in a karmic, and not economic, sense: what kind of gift am I receiving, and how can I in turn give back?