Going back to school is an appealing idea for seniors who are retired or want to make a career change. However, universities and colleges are expensive. As a consequence, many seniors decide against going even if they really want to. But can seniors go to school for free?
Yes, seniors can go to school for free. Many universities offer free or discounted courses for seniors. Some schools might require you to maintain a certain GPA or will limit how many courses you can take at once. You might also be able to take classes for free that don’t earn you credits and won’t require exams and grades.
Continue reading to learn how to find out if a university near you offers tuition waivers or discounts for seniors.
How to Go to College for Free or Cheap
There are several ways you can take college courses at a reduced price or even for free as a senior. If you want to learn but don’t necessarily want to earn a degree, you can take classes without the stress of exams or mid-term papers. You can attend a class and enjoy the discussion without having to endure the stress of turning in your homework on time.
Reduced or Waived Tuition
Many universities offer education programs for seniors that want to return to school. Each state in the United States has different requirements for seniors.
For example, residents in Florida who are at least 60 years old can receive a waiver for tuition fees. In Texas, adults who are at least 55 can receive reduced fees and tuition. Or, if you’re over 65, you can attend classes free of charge. Some states provide reduced tuition for adults as young as 50 years old.
Many states with reduced or waived tuition have requirements that senior students must meet in order to continue taking classes for free. In Texas, students must maintain a 2.0 GPA for undergraduate classes.
Most classes are only given to seniors if there are extra seats. Students who pay full price tuition will get priority. So, classes might be limited, and you might have difficulty getting enrolled in popular classes that you really want to take.
This website allows you to find all the colleges in your state that offer reduced or waived tuition.
Find a University Retirement Community
If always having an education at your fingertips sounds appealing to you, consider retiring in a UBRC, or university-based retirement community.
These communities are a place for seniors to retire that are located on or near a university campus. Depending on the community, long-term care, independent living, and assisted living may all be available options. The seniors living in these communities become students for the remainder of their residency.
Some universities allow UBRC residents to have campus IDs. Other universities might have specific buildings that the residents can take classes in. Residents will usually have access to the university libraries and events hosted on the campus.
Seniors like to become residents at UBRCs because it allows them to stay active both mentally and physically. Plus, it’s a great way for seniors to feel young because of the intergenerational lifestyle it promotes. Graduate students often get to teach or train UBRC residents in classes, and the residents get to mix with the young students during events. Life in a UBRC is fulfilling because you can surround yourself with fellow life-long learners.
Take Classes With OLLI
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute provides classes for adults of at least 50 years old. Pay a fee for membership, and you will get access to a variety of classes at several universities across the United States.
The OLLI classes don’t have exams or grades. You won’t be able to earn a degree with this program, but if you want to learn because you enjoy it or to keep your mind sharp, this might be a great option for you.
How to Reduce Your Education Cost
If you want to earn a degree but are unable to find a university near you that offers reduced or waived tuition for seniors, don’t fret. There are many opportunities to cut back on costs while you earn your degree.
Aim for Enrolling as a Full-Time Student
Most of the federal financial aid programs will require you to enroll as a full-time student. Some of them might allow you to enroll as a part-time student, but you will need to take more than one class at a time. 4 or 5 classes at a time are generally seen as a full-time course load, so try to aim for 3 or 4 classes at a time. If you have any doubts, be sure to check the guidelines on the financial aid website or contact someone you can speak to for clarification.
You might be eligible to apply for Federal Student Aid.
Basic eligibility requirements include:
- Financial aid need
- U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen
- Valid social security number
- Enroll as a regular student
- Enroll as at least a half-time student
- Maintain a satisfactory GPA
- Sign a certification statement
- Prove your qualification to obtain an education
You may have to meet additional eligibility requirements if you’re not a U.S. citizen or have learning disabilities.
Obtain a Scholarship
There are several scholarship opportunities available for senior students. Student Scholarship Search allows you to search for scholarships with a matcher. It will show you all of the scholarships you might be eligible for.
Tax Break Opportunity
Benefits of Going Back to School as a Senior
Going back to school can benefit you mentally and physically. If you’re not sure you should go back, here are some benefits. Even if you enroll in the OLLI program or take classes that won’t earn you credits, you can still reap benefits from the education.
- Spending time around young students will help you feel young.
- Your education can allow you to get a promotion or change your career.
- You have the opportunity to take courses that you want to take and aren’t limited to classes that you must take to graduate.
- Although unproven, some research suggests that being mentally healthy and using your cognitive skills, including memory, can prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Some schools offer a wide variety of classes like cooking and wine tasting for senior programs.
- If you hate taking exams and earning grades, you can take courses just for the sake of learning.
There are several other benefits you might find if you take advantage of reduced or waived tuition. Some people want to continue their education in their retirement just so they can keep their minds active. Others choose to further their education so they can start a second career or their own business.
If you’re unsure about going back to school, think of the reasons why it would benefit you and consider the long-term effects it would have on your life. A UBRC might be a good option for you if you want to study for a long time and anticipate needing assisted living.
You can go to school for free or for a reduced price as a senior. Many universities offer free courses or reduced tuition. If you’re not after a degree, you can sit in on classes for the discussion but not have to take exams or write papers.
- A Senior Citizen Guide for College: Find Your State Tuition Waivers
- AARP: Headed Back to School?
- AARP: UBRCs: Goodbye Bingo, Hello Blue Books
- After 55: How Senior Citizens Are Returning to College for “Encore” Educations
- Federal Student Aid: Eligibility Requirements
- Senior Planet: Free School: A Secret Benefit for Seniors
- The Penny Hoarder: Senior Citizens Can Go to College for Free or Cheap in All 50 States