It's a conundrum for virtual schools. They know the word "free" will attract interest and bring in more leads. Nothing wrong with that, especially if you believe any lead is a good lead.
However, when virtual schools are losing 30-40% of their students each year, one has to wonder if the problem begins with the students being attracted to the school?
"Tuition-free" is a lead-capture phrase, and last time I checked all online public schools are "tuition-free" so I am not sure how that sets one apart from the others. It would be similar to the colas touting themselves as liquids.
However, virtual schools are stuck on features and benefits -- and "tuition-free" is one they just can't get away from because the word free supposedly drives leads.
The question then becomes, is it driving the right kind of lead? Do you want a student to enroll in your virtual school primarily because you are free?