For most of us, our senior citizen years are a time to relax, maybe pursue a hobby, travel, or just relax and let life go by. But for many, retirement isn’t just a time to lay the goals of life down. It is a time to look back over life at the unfinished challenges and then go back and finish them. And for many, an unfinished goal in life is to get that degree.
Senior citizens can go to college for free or significantly reduced tuition in most states. The table below summarizes what is available for seniors who want to go back to school on a state by state basis.
So why do we do it? This may be a question your children ask when they see you going after such an ambitious goal so late in life. But when you think about it, we as senior citizens have a right to be a bit offended by the question. Where is it written that we are denied the right to better ourselves just because we are in the later years of life? Implied in the question is a deeper, condescending question: “What is the point of you getting a degree since you are not going to do anything productive in retirement and you are so close to death?”
Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with academic life. Learning is tremendously addictive. You may wish to go on for yet more studies in fields of learning that have always fascinated you. No institution will turn away your tuition dollars if you just want to be in college for the pure joy of learning. You might even be an inspiration to your fellow students when they see you succeed and they tell themselves, “If Grandpa over there can do it, so can I.”
- 1 Free (or reduced cost) classes for seniors in every state
- 1.1 Alabama
- 1.2 Alaska
- 1.3 Arizona
- 1.4 Arkansas
- 1.5 California
- 1.6 Colorado
- 1.7 Connecticut
- 1.8 Delaware
- 1.9 District of Columbia
- 1.10 Florida
- 1.11 Georgia
- 1.12 Hawaii
- 1.13 Idaho
- 1.14 Illinois
- 1.15 Indiana
- 1.16 Iowa
- 1.17 Kansas
- 1.18 Kentucky
- 1.19 Louisiana
- 1.20 Maine
- 1.21 Maryland
- 1.22 Massachusetts
- 1.23 Michigan
- 1.24 Minnesota
- 1.25 Mississippi
- 1.26 Missouri
- 1.27 Montana
- 1.28 Nebraska
- 1.29 Nevada
- 1.30 New Hampshire
- 1.31 New Jersey
- 1.32 New Mexico
- 1.33 New York
- 1.34 North Carolina
- 1.35 North Dakota
- 1.36 Ohio
- 1.37 Oklahoma
- 1.38 Oregon
- 1.39 Pennsylvania
- 1.40 Rhode Island
- 1.41 South Carolina
- 1.42 South Dakota
- 1.43 Tennessee
- 1.44 Texas
- 1.45 Utah
- 1.46 Vermont
- 1.47 Virginia
- 1.48 Washington
- 1.49 West Virginia
- 1.50 Wisconsin
- 1.51 Wyoming
- 2 Auditing versus credit
- 3 Grants
- 4 Just Sitting Around?
- 5 Sources
Free (or reduced cost) classes for seniors in every state
Remember, it’s best to do your homework before you do your homework! Make sure you understand the difference between auditing a class and taking a class for credit. You can read about it here.
If you are 60 or older, the state of Alabama offers free tuition programs at 2-year postsecondary institutions. You must meet admission requirements to be accepted into their programs.
All University of Alaska campuses waive tuition costs for senior citizens. Rather than define “senior citizen” based on a specific age, the university offers the waiver to anyone who’s old enough to receive full benefits from Social Security. Programs are available on a space-available basis.
All 10 campuses of Maricopa Community College allow senior citizens to take classes for credit at 50% of the full tuition cost. Students 65 and older must register between the first and second class sessions of the semester to ensure space is available.
Arkansas offers free tuition for anyone 60 and over who wants to work toward an undergraduate or graduate degree at state institutions. Student fees may apply and senior citizens may only register for classes with space available. Click here for information about becoming a Senior Razorback.
California State University waives all tuition and dramatically reduces campus fees for residents age 60 or older. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI at UCLA) provides a unique opportunity for individuals age 50 or over to engage in an extensive program of noncredit courses amongst a dynamic community of lifelong learners. Click here for more information about Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
Students age 55 and older may attend class on a space-available basis at Colorado State University. There is no tuition fee, but visitors don’t get credit for attending class. At the University of Colorado Denver, persons aged 60 and above may enroll on a no-credit basis to attend up to two classes per semester as auditors when space is available. Courses with a lab component are excluded, along with computer courses. Click here for more information.
Residents 62 and up may attend state colleges, including community colleges, for free on a space-available basis. At Central Connecticut State University, for example, tuition is waived for any resident over the age of 62 who applies for full- or part-time admission for a degree-granting program. Senior students may also take non-credit courses on a space-available basis and have tuition waived. All students must still pay all other fees.
The University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and Delaware Technical and Community College all permit state residents age 60 or older to audit or take classes for credit for free. At the University of Delaware, students wishing to use the program must apply for admission on a space-available basis. Some graduate degrees may be eligible, as well. Participants must pay all related student fees and buy their own textbooks.
District of Columbia
Senior citizens 65 and up may audit undergraduate courses from Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. These students pay a fee of $50 per course.
The Florida college system waives application, tuition and student fees for those age 60 and above, but colleges will award no credit and will grant admission on a space-available basis. You have to live in Florida for 12 months to establish residency. Visit the University of Florida page for more information.
Georgia residents age 62 and above may take classes on a space-available basis for free at the state’s public colleges. Seniors may choose to take classes for credit or continuing education, but they must apply through the regular admissions process at their school of choice.
The Senior Citizen Visitor Program at the University of Hawaii and state community colleges allows senior residents to attend courses free of charge. Schools will not award credit nor will they keep permanent records of students’ class history.
Programs in Idaho vary based on institutions, but some schools offer good deals. The College of Southern Idaho offers a Gold Card for students age 60 years and older, which allows them to take non-credit classes tuition-free. At Boise State University, Idaho residents who are at least 65 years old can audit classes on a space-available basis for free except for applicable special course fees.
Upon admission, any senior citizen age 65 and up who meets income requirements can attend regular credit courses at Illinois public institutions for free. Lab, student and other fees still apply. Click here for more information.
Purdue University and Indiana University each offer programs that allow retired residents age 60 and to take up to nine credit hours per semester and pay just 50% of in-state tuition fees.
Private institution Simpson College in Indianola allows people 65 and older to take one non-credit class for free per semester. Courses are open on a space-available basis and do not include lab courses.
Kansas residents 60 and older can audit courses at state institutions on a space-available basis without paying tuition. The registration process varies: The University of Kansas and Wichita State University, for example, both require senior auditors to apply for admission.
Tuition and fees are waived for students age 65 and older taking classes on a space-available basis. Residents must be admitted to a state-supported school to take advantage of this discount. Click here for the information page from the University of Kentucky.
Students age 55 and up attending Louisiana state schools receive free tuition and 50% off books and materials at the campus student bookstore.
Senior citizens 65 and up may attend undergraduate classes as degree-seeking or audit students in the University of Maine System for free, subject to space availability.
Any student in the University of Maryland System who’s retired and over the age of 60 may have tuition waived, even for degree-granting programs. Click here for more information about the University of Maryland System.
Residents age 60 or older can take at least three credits per semester at any state-supported school in Massachusetts and receive free tuition.
Opportunities for seniors in Michigan vary by institution. At Michigan Tech, for example, students 60 and older can have tuition waived for up to two courses per semester. Seniors must apply through the admissions office. Western Michigan University invites seniors 62 and older to register for one class per semester tuition-free. At Wayne State University in Detroit, seniors 60 and up receive a 75% discount on tuition but must pay registration and related fees.
Minnesota waives tuition for senior citizens 62 and older, but fees may vary by school. At the University of Minnesota, seniors pay a $10 fee per credit, but can audit for free.
There’s no statewide benefit in Mississippi, but some schools have programs for seniors. Mississippi State University provides a waiver to residents age 60 or older for classes offered on the Starkville or Meridian campuses or by the Center for Distance Education. Seniors are limited to six semester hours per semester and a maximum of 18 credit hours per calendar year, where space is available. University of Mississippi’s Office of Professional Development and Lifelong Learning allows seniors 65 and older to take one class per semester at any UM campus.
Missouri residents age 65 and older are exempt from paying tuition at state-supported institutions for classes attended on a non-credit basis. Schools may limit the number of students who receive tuition benefits based on space availability.
The Montana University System offers a tuition waiver for in-state residents 65 years of age or older. Campus and registration fees are not waived.
Several Nebraska colleges offer waivers to senior citizens. At Mid-Plains Community College, seniors 62 and older who are in-state or residents of border states Colorado, Kansas, South Dakota, and Wyoming pay $33 per credit hour. Click here for information about the program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas allows seniors 62 and up to take autumn and spring courses free of charge. They pay 50% tuition for summer classes. Lab and other course fees are not covered.
The University of New Hampshire offers residents 65 and older free tuition for two credit-bearing classes per academic year on a space-available basis, so long as they’re not enrolled in a degree program.
Rutgers University allows retired New Jersey residents 62 and older to audit courses for free in the spring and fall semesters at its Camden, New Brunswick and Newark campuses, space permitting.
The University of New Mexico offers reduced tuition of just $5 per credit hour to state residents 65 and older. For-credit classes are eligible as well as auditing; senior citizens can take no more than six credit hours per semester. The program is offered on a space-available basis and students are responsible for paying any additional course fees.
Many schools offer free or reduced tuition for senior citizens. Queens College allows residents 60 and up to audit any course on a space-available basis after completing a Senior Citizen Auditor Application and paying $80 per semester. At SUNY Purchase, New York state residents 60 and older can enroll tuition-free in a maximum of two credit-bearing, on-campus courses in which space is available. They pay a $50 audit fee, $20 ID processing fee and any course fees.
Tuition and registration fees are waived for residents age 65 years or older attending North Carolina community colleges. Audit options may be available at other schools. At the University of North Carolina Wilmington, for example, senior citizens may audit classes for free after getting the instructor’s permission and submitting an application. Lab, studio, performance, distance education, independent study, internship, and special topic courses are excluded.
Programs vary by the institution in North Dakota. At Bismarck State, for example, senior citizens 65 and older can audit one course tuition-free per semester on a space-available basis. They’re still responsible for other course fees.
Ohio residents at least 60 years old may attend class at any state college for free. Senior-citizen students do not receive credit and can only register on a space-available basis.
Oklahoma state colleges and universities waive tuition and fees for senior citizens 65+ who wish to audit classes on a space-available basis. Click here for more information.
Oregon State University allows senior citizens at least 65 years old to audit classes for free. The University of Oregon also waives fees for seniors 65 and older auditing classes on a space-available basis.
Clarion University offers a tuition waiver for residents 62 and up to audit classes. At Bloomsburg University, you only need to be 60 to take tuition-free classes on a space-available basis. There can be additional benefits at the community college level: Bucks County Community College, for example, waives for-credit course tuition for seniors 65 and up so long as they register after students paying full tuition.
The Rhode Island General Assembly has enacted legislation granting a tuition waiver to certain income-qualified permanent RI residents who are at least 60 years of age on a space-available basis. Senior citizens over 60 may request a tuition waiver at the Community College of Rhode Island to attend classes with space available. Interested persons must submit a Senior Citizen Means Test to verify they are of limited income. A FAFSA is required for all degree-seeking senior students. The $30 late registration fee will only be waived on the designated “Waiver Registration Day” (Jan. 16) for those students who pay the required applicable fees on that date.
Residents 60 and above can attend classes at state schools on a credit or noncredit basis, pending space available, for free. The school must grant admission via its normal procedures. Technology, lab, and other fees are the responsibility of the student. Click here to read about South Carolina’s On Your Time Initiatives.
Residents 65 and older can attend public universities in South Dakota at 55% of the normal cost of tuition for undergraduate or graduate in-person courses on a main university campus. Interested adults should apply through the regular admissions system and the school will automatically grant the discount upon admission. Student fees are not waived.
Tennessee residents 65 and older may enroll in tuition-free courses for credit at state schools and community colleges. The student will still pay application and course fees.
A senior citizen age 65 or older can take up to six tuition-free credit hours at the University of Texas at Austin. You have to provide a birth certificate to prove eligibility. At the University of Texas at Dallas and Lone Star College, undergrad students 65 and older must maintain a 2.0 cumulative GPA to receive a tuition waiver for up to six credit hours per semester.
Residents age 62 and up may enroll tuition-free at a state institution, space permitting; a quarterly registration fee is required. At the University of Utah, for example, seniors can audit most classes on a space-available basis and only have to pay a fee of $25 per semester.
Vermonters over the age of 65 can audit one class per semester tuition-free on a space-available basis in the Vermont State College system. Students can take additional classes at a 50% discount on the tuition rate. They’ll still have to pay administration and course fees for all classes.
Under the amended terms of the Senior Citizens Higher Education Act of 1974, Virginia residents over 60 years old who earn a taxable income of less than $23,850 annually can audit up to three courses per term for free on a space-available basis at any public institution.
Institutions in Washington are required to partially or fully waive tuition fees for residents age 60 or older who are enrolled for credit on a space-available basis. Nominal fees may apply to students auditing courses. Some schools limit senior citizens to a certain number of classes or credits; for example, Washington State University caps the waiver at six credits for the fall and spring semesters.
Although senior students at West Virginia University applying for credit must use the regular admissions form, those wishing to be non-degree students pay just $5 to apply. Click here to learn about West Virginia University.
Adults 60 and up may audit classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus for free, where space is available. At Marquette University a 50% discount on tuition only is available to individuals 62 years of age and older taking graduate courses for credit.
Upon admission to the University of Wyoming, senior citizens 65 and up may attend class on a space-available basis for free. Terms and conditions change regularly. Please comment below if you find a particular state’s information is out of date.
Links have been provided on many of the states so you can research your state specifically. If you find incorrect or out of date information in this post, please comment below so we can update our information.
Auditing versus credit
As you research extending our education, it is important to know the difference between auditing a class and taking a class for credit. Auditing usually means taking a class on a space available basis but you receive no credit toward a degree. Taking a class for credit will usually point you toward a degree or certificate. Auditing is usually far less expensive than taking a class for credit.
Make sure you know what your ultimate goal is before you register for a class. You can’t go back and change your status if you change your mind.
If you are headed back to school, make sure you investigate grants. There are many grants and scholarship programs available to seniors. A few hours of homework BEFORE you go back to school may provide many rewards.
Just Sitting Around?
The last thing we as senior citizens want is to be seen as people who are just sitting around waiting to die. Many a senior citizen has started an entirely new career and accomplished great things after 50. With the advances in medical science today, it’s perfectly logical that you could live 20-30 years or more “in retirement”. That is more than enough to accomplish great things. Starting out this era of life with a good education makes just as much sense as a youth doing so as they start out on their first career.
This is not to say that going back to school is going to be easy. If finishing your high school diploma is the goal, you are going into an alien world and one that was probably pretty hostile the first time you were there. Your presence in the high school or college classroom is going to be the source of some humor and you might take some teasing for being there. But those same kids will come to admire what you are doing and enjoy having “grandpa” in class with them each day. Besides the social situation you may create in a high school or college classroom, school is a challenge. You will have to get used to being in the classroom and listening to lectures, reading textbooks, taking notes, doing papers, and taking exams all over again.
If you go after an advanced degree and take several classes, you will be a very busy senior citizen just keeping up with your studies. You will be busy but you can expect some joy as well from going after an advanced degree. College life and being on a college campus each day is by itself a very stimulating environment. You may even find yourself at a few pep rallies and enjoying campus life just like the other students. Being with young people each day can be energizing, and you may find yourself looking and acting as much as the youth you “hang out with” as you do your fellow senior citizens. But the greatest benefit of getting that advanced degree is the pride and sense of accomplishment you will get.
If you are finishing your high school diploma or finishing a bachelor’s degree, it has probably nagged you all your life. It was something that you started and didn’t finish. So by going back and finishing it, you close that door and take away the power of that nagging voice.
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