Although just over 0.3 percent of university students are over 65, a clear indication that seniors are going back to school. As the 71.6 million baby boomers grow older, that number is expected to rise. As a result, universities are making concerted efforts to include seniors as a viable part of their student bodies through tuition waivers and discounts.
So why should seniors go back to school? There are a few reasons.
Top 3 Reasons Seniors Should Go Back to School
Ideally, learning never ends. Going back to school is the most structured way to make sure that lifelong learning stay intact.
1 – Stay Technologically Informed
About 19 percent of individuals over 65 are still working, some by choice, others by necessity. By 2026, that number is expected to rise to 22 percent. Seniors who are still part of the workforce need to stay up-to-date with technology not to lose their position to a younger employee. Knowing the ins and outs of technology keeps your marketable job skills current.
2 – Lifelong Learning is Good for Your Health
Studies have proven that a healthy diet and lifelong learning can reduce the risk of cognitive decline as we age. Continued education provides a sense of purpose and self-efficacy that preserve cognitive function. Many scientists believe that maintaining an intellectually and physically active lifestyle is the key to reducing cognitive decline. So going back to school is good for you!
3 – Going Back to School is Affordable
Seniors don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to attend university classes! Following, you will find a list of places that provide discounts and tuition waivers for those over 60. Affordability warrants an entire section, however, covering all 50 states…
Reduced (or Free) Tuition for Seniors by State
If you don’t see your state listed or don’t live near one of the universities mentioned as offering a senior rate, then call your local college and see what options they have. Remember, free tuition waivers do not include other student fees the school might charge.
Alabama: Seniors over 60 qualify for free tuition to any two-year institution in the state.
Alaska: Seniors that are permanent residents of Alaska and receive full social security benefits qualify for free tuition at the University of Alaska.
California: State colleges will waive tuition, activity fees, and application fees for those over 60.
Colorado: at Colorado State University, seniors over 66 can audit classes for free. Students must be older than 60 at the Metropolitan State University of Denver and the University of Colorado Denver. The minimum age at the University of Northern Colorado is 65. The Colorado State University-Pueblo also offers free auditing for seniors over 55.
Connecticut: State and community colleges are free for residents over 62.
Delaware: At the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Delaware Technical and Community College residents over 60 can take credit courses or audit classes with a tuition waiver if you are an official degree candidate. The University of Delaware offers tuition-free graduate programs as well.
District of Columbia: Students over 65 admitted to the Institute of Gerontology can attend the University of the District of Columbia’s Van Ness Campus and Community College tuition-free. Locals over 60 can audit classes at George Washington University for $65 per class. Area seniors over 65 can audit classes for $50 per undergraduate course at Georgetown University.
Florida: Anyone over 60 can attend non-credit classes without paying application, tuition, and student fees.
Georgia: The University System of Georgia allows seniors over 65 to take classes for credit or audit them at any public college tuition-free. Georgia Tech’s graduate-level courses are free for seniors over 62.
Hawaii: State community colleges and the University of Hawaii provide free courses for those over 60 through the Senior Citizen Visitor Program. The Na Kupuna program sponsors free class auditing at UH Manoa, Kauai Community College, and Leeward Community College.
Idaho: Seniors over 65 at Boise State University and over 60 at the College of Southern Idaho can audit classes for free. Credit courses can be taken for $5 per credit hour plus a $20 registration fee at these schools plus the University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College.
Indiana: Public colleges give at least a 50% discount off in-state tuition for residents over 60 for up to nine credit hours each semester. Vincennes University and Ivy Tech Community College offer to waive 100% tuition for a course taken for credit. Purdue University’s Fort Wayne offers free class auditing. The University of Indianapolis has tuition-free enrollment for those over 65 who are part of its Lifelong Learning College. At Indiana University and Purdue University, retired seniors over 60 can take nine credit hours per semester at a 50% discount.
Iowa: If you are over 65, you can take one for-credit course each semester for free at the Des Moines Area Community College. Simpson College campuses in Indianola and West Des Moines offer non-credit courses for free.
Kansas: Individuals over 60 can audit classes at any state institution tuition-free.
Louisiana: State schools offer free tuition and 50 percent off the campus student bookstore for students over 55.
Maine: For those over 65, the University of Maine System has a tuition waiver available for undergraduate courses.
Massachusetts: Free tuition for three credits per semester at state-supported schools is available for residents over 60.
Michigan: Seniors over 60 can audit classes for free at Lake Superior State University and Central Michigan University. Two on-campus courses can be taken with a tuition waiver at Michigan Tech. Residents over 62 can take at least one class per semester for free at Western Michigan University and Northern Michigan University. Wayne State University gives a 75% discount on tuition for seniors over 60.
Minnesota: Those over the age of 62 can audit a class per semester for free each semester. If you have a railroad annuity, you can start auditing classes at 60. Seniors pay $10 per credit at the University of Minnesota.
Mississippi: At the University of Mississippi, students over 65 can take up to four credit hours per semester for free. The Mississippi State University’s Starkville and Meridian campuses offer tuition-free classes for residents over 60.
Missouri: There is no tuition for non-credit classes for residents over 65 at state-supported schools.
Montana: In-state seniors over 65 can receive a tuition waiver from the Montana University System.
Nebraska: At Chadron State College and the College of Saint Mary, residents over 65 can take one class per semester tuition-free. At the University of Nebraska campuses at Omaha and Lincoln, seniors can audit two classes per semester for an annual fee of $25. Mid-Plains Community College has a reduced rate for credit hours for seniors over 62 who live in Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
Nevada: If you live in Las Vegas, you want to check out the University of Nevada campus. Residents over 65 can take tuition-free courses in the fall and spring semesters. The summer session classes are discounted 50 percent. The university-sponsored Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers classes and events for semi-retired and retired adults.
New Hampshire: The University of New Hampshire and Granite State College allow seniors over 65 that are not currently enrolled in a degree program to take two courses every academic year tuition-free.
New York: Seniors over 60 can audit classes without paying tuition at all State University of New York and City University of New York institutions. Seniors over 60 can audit courses at Queens College for $80 per semester. At SUNY Purchase, the auditing fee is $50.
North Carolina: Community colleges offer free tuition and no registration fees for those over 65. The University of North Carolina and all its campuses offer free class auditing. Membership in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke University allows seniors to pay $25 to $150 per class.
Ohio: State colleges will allow residents 60 and over to audit classes for free.
Oklahoma: Seniors over 65 can audit classes at state colleges without paying tuition or fees. Make sure to check out the programs the Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma City Community College, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, and Oklahoma State University–Oklahoma City offer.
Oregon: Students over 65 can audit tuition-free up to 8 credit hours per semester at community colleges. Be sure to look at the University of Oregon, Portland State University, Oregon State University, and Portland State University.
Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University and its 24 locations have a Go-60 program. Residents over 60 who work fewer than 20 hours per week or are retired can take six credits per semester to audit or for credit without paying tuition. West Chester University. Bloomsburg University and East Stroudsburg University also offer something similar. As a student over 62 at Clarion University, you can audit classes without paying tuition or fees. Bucks County Community College waives tuition for students over 65.
South Dakota: Seniors over 65 qualify for a discount of 45% at public universities at the undergraduate or graduate level.
Tennessee: Seniors over 60 can audit classes at state colleges without paying for tuition or other fees. Those over the age of 65 can take credit classes for free, although there may be a service fee of up to $70 a semester.
Texas: Individuals over 65 can audit any class (up to 6 hours per semester) at any state-supported in any state-supported university if there is available space. Be sure to check out the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Houston, Midland College, and Lone Star College. Maintaining a 2.0 cumulative GPA allows you to take up to 6 credit hours with a tuition waiver.
Utah: For the cost of a quarterly registration fee, seniors over 62 can take classes at state institutions. At the University of Utah, it’s $25 a semester for auditing classes, and at the Salt Lake Community College, it’s $10.
Vermont: Schools in the state college system permit residents over 65 to audit one class per semester for free. Additional classes are discounted 50%.
Virginia: Seniors over 60 who meet income restrictions can audit up to 3 courses per term without paying tuition.
Washington: All colleges in the state partially or fully waive tuition fees for students over 60 enrolled in credit courses. Auditing courses may have a nominal fee. South Seattle College allows seniors to register for two courses per semester to audit or take for credit for $5. Bellevue College charges $5 to audit classes. The Community Colleges of Spokane only charge $2.50 per class.
West Virginia: Public institutions are required to offer reduced fees for seniors over 65. Credit classes are offered at a 50% discount, and to audit classes, seniors pay $50 for tuition and fees per class.
Wisconsin: The 13 universities and 26 campuses that make up the University of Wisconsin system offer free class auditing for residents over 60.
Wyoming: The University of Wyoming provides free enrollment for seniors over 65. Northwest College has a Golden Age program that gives a tuition waiver for Park County residents over 60 on up to six credit hours per semester.
Online Learning Options
Many of the universities listed above have online options. As a result, seniors can attend classes virtually and continue learning even when mobility issues keep them home. Here are some other places to look for exciting coursework.
The University of California-Berkeley provides webcast Berkeley for UC Berkeley community members with an active CalNet and connected (Google) identity. In addition, the general public can access many of the courses at edx.org.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology runs OpenCourseWare with more than 1,800 academic courses listed. Harvard University offers over 120 free online courses. Lowell Institute offers the Forum National Network, which has hundreds of video and audio lectures from artists, scholars, authors, scientists, and community leaders.
Apple offers iTunes U. YouTube EDU is another channel that offers interesting and informative videos from top universities. Finally, TEDTalks offers short presentations by speakers about technology, entertainment, and design.
Academic Earth offers free and accredited courses from a variety of notable universities. Videolectures.Net has recorded lectures from scientists and scholars. Howcast has a large selection of how-to videos ranging from arts and crafts to love and relationships.
Paying for College
Even if the course is free, university students may have additional fees that must be paid. Seniors can apply for aid through the Federal Student Aid Office online or at the university admissions where they are enrolled. Applicants must demonstrate a financial need, have a valid Social Security number, and be accepted or already enrolled in a degree or certificate program to qualify for assistance.
In addition to low-interest federal loans and scholarships, there are tax credits you may qualify for. For example, the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit is a yearly tax break for the undergraduate, graduate, or professional degree. Students can claim up to $2,000. Another tax break is the American opportunity tax credit (AOTC). Students can receive up to $2,500 for the first four years of their degree.
Seniors can also open a 529 investment account to pay for tuition, fees, books, supplies, equipment, and computers. The withdrawals and earnings are tax-free when used toward higher education. These accounts are classified as prepaid tuition or college savings plans.
Senior Educational Organizational Resources
If you are thinking of heading back to school, the following organizations can help you with that process.
Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society is the largest adult continuing education program in the United States. The Complete Florida Plus program works with the Florida College System and the State University System to help adult learners complete their degrees.
Arizona State University in Tempe has constructed a dorm community for seniors over 60 to live on campus. In comparison, Lasell College in Massachusetts works with the Lasell Village retirement community. Residents must take at least 450 hours of classes every year.
Finally, the Graduate Network is committed to helping adults return to school to get their degrees.
As you can see, there are plenty of resources for seniors going back to school. There’s no need to stop learning at any age. Instead, find that passion, complete that degree, or spend a few enjoyable hours each week in the academic world and reap the benefits!