Technology, the internet, and innovative education models have made it easier to take college courses and even earn a degree online for little to no cost. Whether you’re a senior looking to further your education or earn the degree you’ve always wanted, you can easily do that from the comfort of your home without breaking the bank. However, if you’re looking to earn a valid certificate, things can get tricky because many online colleges are either not accredited or lack free degree programs.
Some of the best online degrees for seniors at little or no cost include Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Master of Education in Advanced Teaching, and Bachelor of Science in Health Science.
In the rest of this article, we’ll take a look at what you’ll learn in the above tuition-free degree programs, where you can enroll, and the associated costs (if any). But first…
What Exactly Do We Mean by “Free” Online Degrees for Seniors?
Before we go any further, let’s get one thing straight: many of the free degrees you can earn online today (especially from accredited institutions) aren’t exactly “free” even though they may be offered tuition-free. That’s because online college education—regardless of age—comes with hidden costs such as admission fees and examination charges.
The good news, however, is that these charges are usually low compared to the alternative: paying full college tuition. Also, there are some crafty ways to get your total cost of an online degree as close to $0 as possible.
- Enrolling for free online classes and then “testing out” of them later on in a paid program
- Seeking admission to a higher learning institution that offers tuition-free education or covers 100% of all education costs for students with demonstrated financial need.
- Enrolling in an in-district or in-state community college that offers 100% free online education for people of all ages.
Let’s take a deeper look at each option below.
Enrolling for Free Online Classes and Then “Testing Out” of Them Later On in a Paid Program
Many institutions of higher learning may give you a chance to “test out” of some courses as long as you demonstrate enough knowledge or experience in your field of study. This is common practice in competency-based colleges, which are typically geared towards working adults who need a lot of flexibility to achieve their learning goals.
If you enroll for a competency-based degree, you can significantly lower the total cost and duration of your education by applying your job experience and/or taking some of the courses beforehand. The latter is possible because many top-notch institutions today offer some of their courses online at no cost as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
In case the college you’re eyeing doesn’t offer MOOCs, you can always try finding a free or a budget online platform that offers some of the courses you’ll need to earn your degree.
To get you started, here are the top 7:
By applying your on-the-job experience and/or taking some of the courses beforehand, you’ll set yourself up to “test out” of a significant chunk of the coursework, which will shorten the time you’ll take to earn your degree and subsequently lower your college education costs. However, it’s worth mentioning that most colleges with this kind of set up won’t let you test out of the whole degree program.
Seeking Admission to a Higher Learning Institution That Offers Tuition-Free Education or Covers 100% of All Education Costs for Students With Demonstrated Financial Need
Some of the best universities and colleges in the US cover 100% of the educational costs for students with demonstrated financial need while others provide online degrees tuition-free. For the latter, you’ll only incur examination and application costs, and the admission requirements will typically be lenient.
However, the former have correspondingly high admission standards, meaning this might not be an option if you’re not academically exemplary.
Nevertheless, here’s how it works:
First, you’ll need to gain admission to a university or college with the financial resources to cover all your educational costs. With this at hand, you or a member of your family will then submit a Federal Aid Application (FAFSA), demonstrating that your family doesn’t earn enough to support your college education. If your application goes through, you’ll study at no out-of-pocket cost.
The beauty of this option is that many learning institutions have raised the bar for the maximum earnings you/your family can register and still qualify for financial aid. In fact, school is free in some institutions if your total household earnings are less than $65000 a year.
Enrolling in an In-District or In-State Community College That Offers Free Online Education for People of All Ages
This is perhaps the easiest and most widespread way to earn a college degree online for free. In many states, you can study tuition-free provided you reside within the metropolitan district covered by your desired community college. Some of these programs even come with extra stipends to help with your cost of living as well as all the materials you’ll need for learning, such as textbooks.
There are two ways you can qualify for such programs:
- By providing proof that you attended and graduated high school within the covered district.
- By providing documented evidence that you’ve previously worked for several years within the covered area and would like to go back to college to complete your degree.
The beauty of this kind of setup is that many community colleges have “transfer agreements” with other local universities and colleges. This means you can gain automatic admission to your desired local public higher learning institution and even study beyond a bachelor’s degree provided you meet all the requirements (e.g., some require you to maintain a certain GPA level).
5 Best Online Degrees for Seniors at No Cost
Having covered what we mean by free college education and some of the best ways to reduce your expenses as an adult learner, let’s take a look at some of the best online degrees you can earn at little or no cost from The University of the People:
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
UoPeople has a unique higher education model that allows its students to study online tuition-free. If you enroll here for a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, you’ll receive your degree without incurring educational instruction expenses, annual enrollment fees, or course material costs.
The only payments you’ll make are the 60-dollar application fee and $100 for each exam. The examination fee won’t be required in one full payment. Rather, you’ll pay at the time of the exam, and you can cover it through numerous scholarships and/or grants if you can’t raise the money. That’s not to mention that the University offers scholarships to students who can’t afford the exam fees.
With the costs out of the way, let’s take a look at what you’ll learn when you enroll for a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. In a nutshell, this online degree program comprehensively covers important business models and theories and illustrates how they can be applied in the business world to solve real problems.
You can expect a special focus on:
- Analysis and interpretation of business opportunities and problems
- Critical business functions such as entrepreneurship and leadership
- Analysis and implementation of theories and decisions in business
In the courses that make up this online degree, you’ll learn exactly how you can connect the various business concepts to the global society so you can prepare for a career as an entrepreneur or a pacesetter in the world of business. You’ll also be provided with a solid foundation to spring for higher education in business administration or other related fields if that’s something you desire.
After meeting all the program requirements, you’ll be assigned a personal program advisor. This person will be your school support system and will remain with you throughout the course. They’ll help with any questions you might have about coursework, course selection, and virtually anything else you might want to know about earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration at UoPeople. In case your morale gets low, they’ll be there to encourage you, too!
Master of Business Administration
The UoPeople also offers a Master’s degree in Business Administration tuition-free. The payment terms are somewhat similar to those of the Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration discussed earlier, except the assessment fee is $200 instead of $100. The 60-dollar application fee isn’t refundable and must accompany your application. It also doesn’t include additional payments that may be charged for third-party evaluation.
With the money stuff out of the way, let’s take a quick look at what you’ll learn in this program.
At UoPeople, a Master of Business Administration program provides a hands-on approach to community leadership and business. As part of a stimulating, cutting-edge learning experience, it instills the skills, knowledge, and mentality learners of all ages need to cope with the diversity of modern organizations and pursue educational goals such as an associate’s degree (also available in the same institution).
As a graduate of this program, you’ll be in a prime position to thrive in government, industry, business, and management of non-profit organizations. That’s thanks to a learning experience that includes a combination of instructors from some of the best universities in the world, an international student body, and tried-and-tested teaching methods that ensure high-quality education.
Each course in the program is nine weeks long, and you can take up to 3 courses per term. You can complete the MBA program in as little as six terms or 15 months if you study full time. Enrolling part-time is also an option, but it comes with a restriction of one course per term. Needless to say, you’ll take longer to complete the course if you take this route.
While there are a handful of admission requirements, the UoPeople accepts students from all over the world to create a student body that reflects the diversity of today’s society. However, considering applicants’ past professional achievements and their future potential is part of the screening process, so be sure not to sell yourself short in this regard.
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
The world is getting more computer-dependent each day. As of 2018, over half of the world population was online, and that trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. With almost every aspect of modern technology dependent on computers one way or another, a bachelor’s degree in computer science remains one of the most in-demand and rewarding certifications you can table in today’s job interviews.
As a pro developer, you can do more than just geek around with code.
You can utilize your problem-solving skills and complex algorithms to come up with innovative solutions to real-world problems across industries such as cybersecurity, IT, games development, mobile, data science, and even healthcare.
Whether you want to learn about machine learning and AI, blockchain technology, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, or are already a computer geek looking to lock down on some of the latest trends, the UoPeople has you covered.
Tuition-free, you’ll earn an accredited degree from a program that equips learners with all the analytical skills and in-depth knowledge required to succeed in any IT-related profession. You’ll also prepare to pursue an associate’s degree in computer science if that’s something you desire, which is also available at UoPeople (click here for details).
As with many degree programs at UoPeople, you’ll need to pay a non-refundable 60-dollar application fee and a 100-dollar charge for each exam (which you can cover with multiple grants and/or scholarships). But that’s all. You won’t be charged for access to learning materials, lectures, or annual enrollment.
If you meet all the admission requirements, some of the exciting things you’ll learn include:
- Programming languages and database management
- How to apply computer science knowledge and skills to solving real-life problems across multiple industries
- How to design, test, develop, and document a variety of operating systems and software
- How to assemble a computer from scratch
- Web programming, which includes web services, markup languages, enterprise web development, and server-side programming
- How to create mobile apps
- AI techniques and concepts, including problem-solving, “reasoning,” and search optimization
Keep in mind that these are just the highlights. There’s a whole world of computers you’ll explore in this degree program that we can’t document exhaustively. Throughout your learning journey, you’ll be guided by a program advisor, who’ll act as your school support system. This person will help with all-learning related issues, including course selection and encouragement.
Master of Education in Advanced Teaching
The UoPeople, in collaboration with the International Baccalaureate (IB), recently launched a tuition-free degree program for people of all ages looking to earn a Master of Education (M.E.d) certificate. If you choose to enroll, you’ll only need to pay the standard 60-dollar application fee and $200 for each exam.
The program’s curriculum captures IB’s unique approach to learning and teaching, meaning you’ll be qualified to work for IB World Schools, which typically favor teachers who are familiar with IB pedagogy. Even if working for IB World Schools isn’t something you desire, you’ll still want to enroll.
That’s because the program is geared to producing a new breed of globally-minded educational instructors with in-depth knowledge of pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment. The intention is to foster interdisciplinary learning, student-directed inquiry, critical thinking, and intercultural competence.
In addition to the admission requirements, there are some specialization restrictions. You must specialize in either secondary education or elementary/middle school education to enroll. In both specializations, you’ll have to complete one elective course and two core specialization courses as part of the total number of required courses (thirteen).
Even though a bachelor’s degree is part of the admission requirements for M.E.d, UoPeople doesn’t offer such a program. So if you don’t have it, you’ll need to take care of that before enrolling.
Bachelor of Science in Health Science
Last on our list of tuition-free online degrees for seniors is the Bachelor of Science in Health Science.
Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this program draws knowledge from varying fields of study such as healthcare, mental health, public health, and bioethics to prepare learners for successful careers in healthcare, education, and community organizing. It also provides a foundation for learners to pursue an associate’s degree in the same field, which is available at UoPeople, too.
Through a balanced combination of practice and theory, you’ll learn about community health, disease prevention, nutrition, and the mechanisms of healthcare systems. This will help equip you with the skills, knowledge, and mentality you need to excel in the complex and ever-evolving modern healthcare environment. It’ll also help you understand the various public health models and theories and how to apply them to address real-world problems.
Provided you tick every box in the admission requirements for this program, you’ll be assigned a personal program advisor. This person will act as your school support system and help you with all school-related issues, including motivation to help you power through.
Ultimately, it’s possible to earn a degree online as a senior at little or no cost by:
- Enrolling for free online classes and then “testing out” of them later on in a paid program
- Seeking admission to a higher learning institution that offers tuition-free education or one that covers 100% of all education costs for students with demonstrated financial need.
- Enrolling in an in-district or in-state community college that offers free online education for people of all ages.
As you might have gathered, all the tuition-free degree programs discussed in this roundup are provided by the University of the People. That’s not by coincidence. Rather, it’s because the UoPeople is the world’s first accredited tuition-free online college. While there are many other online colleges with such a setup, they aren’t accredited, and this is why we decided to focus on the UoPeople.
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