Seniors enjoy discounts for just about everything. Did you know that can even include the cost of higher education?
Some schools think it’s a smart idea. Whether through a state-supported program or school-based initiatives, there are plenty of opportunities to learn — and earn credit toward a degree — without the burden of crippling student loans.
The following colleges currently offer tuition-free, credit-bearing courses for students in their golden years. Admission to classes is likely to depend on whether space is available. Consider this your chance to advance a career, change direction or finish a degree you started many moons ago.
1. University of Alaska
Not everyone wants to retire to Florida. Those who prefer spending their post-career years in a colder climate might want to consider the Last Frontier State.
At the University of Alaska, which comprises three universities on a system of campuses across the state, residents who are eligible for full Social Security retirement benefits — those who have reached what is technically known as “full retirement age” — are entitled to free tuition. Admission to classes is granted on a “space available” basis.
See the rules here (look for “Senior Citizen Tuition Waiver”), in the university’s 2020-2021 academic catalog.
Earning college credit has never been cooler.
2. University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas offers its local silver foxes the opportunity to become “Senior Razorbacks.” (The razorback, the university mascot, is a feral hog known for its “tenacious, wild fighting ability.”)
To gain tuition-free access to classes on a space-available basis you must:
- Be a resident of Arkansas
- Be at least 60 years of age,
- Hold a high school diploma or GED
- Be admitted to the University of Arkansas
Full rules and procedures, including the special enrollment period, deadlines, eligibility and making an application, are explained on the Senior Citizen Graduate Students page.
Note that some fees and costs are not waived or covered. Some examples: textbooks, class supplies, fees for certain specific programs, online administrative fees, non-credit continuing education class tuition and the cost of study abroad classes.
Even when tuition is free, there are things that older college students should consider. Read “5 Things to Weigh Before Going Back to School After Age 50.”
3. Clemson University
Clemson University waives tuition costs for qualifying seniors.
If you are at least 60 years old, a resident of South Carolina and not employed full-time, you are eligible for Senior Citizen Enrollment at the university.
You can either audit classes or enroll for credit in classes where space is available. The best part is, there’s no limit to the number of credit hours you can take.
4. University of Connecticut
State law requires the University of Connecticut and other state higher education institutions to waive tuition costs for older students. To be eligible, you must be a resident of the state, admitted to the university and 62 years of age before starting classes.
Eligible students must be enrolled in a degree-granting program. Or, seniors not in degree programs may take classes where space is available, after paying students are enrolled. You cannot receive a tuition waiver for graduate certificate programs. The tuition waiver applies only for fall and spring semesters and it covers only the cost of tuition.
5. University of Delaware
The University of Delaware’s Over-60 Tuition-Free Degree program offers any Delaware resident age 60 or older the opportunity to further their education. SAT scores are not required, but you do need a high school diploma or the equivalent.
You can apply online to the university during each semester’s application period. Once accepted, eligible seniors can seek an undergraduate or graduate degree free of charge.
You are, however, responsible for the cost of textbooks, service fees and dining on campus.
6. Georgia Tech
If you have your heart set on earning a master’s degree, you might want to move to Georgia.
The University System of Georgia sponsors a program that opens Georgia Tech’s graduate-level courses to seniors where space is available. You must be able to prove that you are at least 62 years of age, a resident of Georgia and legally in the United States.
The Georgia Tech program was designed for students seeking a graduate degree or “special non-degree seeking” students. Fees may be waived for undergraduate coursework, too. Apply at the office of undergraduate admission.
7. University of Illinois
Love the Windy City but prefer to settle in the suburbs?
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a research pioneer, offers nearly 5,000 courses in more than 150 undergraduate programs alone.
If you are 65 or older and a resident of Illinois, you can apply free of charge if your annual household income is below a certain threshold. It is necessary to apply and be accepted to attend the university.
If you meet these criteria, the Senior Citizen Courses Act Tuition Waiver can allow you to earn undergraduate- and graduate-level credit tuition-free.
Fees and other non-tuition charges are not covered by the waiver. Extramural and correspondence courses aren’t available through the program.
8. University of Kentucky
Cheering for the Wildcats means so much more when you’re a student at the University of Kentucky.
That’s what makes the Donovan Fellowship tuition waiver extra-special. It is only available for adults age 65 and up taking academic classes.
Other than age and the availability of space in classes, the tuition program is fairly flexible. As a Donovan Fellow, you can audit classes without earning credit. Or, you can earn credit even not working toward a degree. Or, take courses as a degree-seeking student. It’s up to you.
If you’re working toward a degree you’ll need to be accepted for admission to the university. But there are no educational requirements to audit undergraduate academic classes.
9. University of Maryland at College Park
Through the Golden ID Card Program, the University of Maryland at College Park waives tuition for students 60 years of age and older. Some other fees apply, however.
A few stipulations: You must be a resident of Maryland, a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and you must be retired (defined as “not engaged in gainful employment for more than 20 hours a week”).
If you meet the university’s admission requirements and space is available, you may register for credit-bearing courses.
The program allows Golden ID Program participants to take up to seven undergraduate credits or six graduate-level courses per semester.
10. Penn State at University Park
Penn State’s GO-60 program is an opportunity for tuition-free learning. It is aimed at retired adults age 60 and above who are residents of Pennsylvania and employed no more than 20 hours per week.
The on-campus program currently is “paused” because of the pandemic, but keep your eye on this valuable resource and watch for it to resume.
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