Typically, retirement is a time when you can kick back and relax. And, there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ve paid your dues, after all. However, learning new skills can help you keep your mind sharp.
Did you also know that in the U.S., many institutions offer senior citizens free college courses? Taking advantage of these programs is a great way to discover new interests, stay on top of your intellectual game, and prevent isolation.
Even better? A grade isn’t always important. Audit classes are often offered without homework or exams for seniors in many schools. Furthermore, retirees may be entitled to free tuition.
With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the requirements for the best colleges for retirees across the country.
According to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, all Alabama residents age 60 and older can enroll in two-year post-secondary institutions for free. These include any of Alabama Community College System’s 24 community and technical colleges, such as Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Alabama Technical Institute, and Marion Military Institute
However, the University of Arkansas offers its silver foxes the chance to become “Senior Razorbacks.” If you didn’t know, the Razorback, the university mascot, is a feral hog known for its “tenacious, wild fighting ability.”
In order to gain access to tuition-free classes, you must:
- Have an Arkansas residency
- Be at least 60 years of age
- Graduated from high school or earned a GED
- Obtain an admissions offer from the University of Arkansas
Details about the special enrollment period, deadlines, eligibility, and how to apply are explained on the Senior Citizen Undergraduate Admissions page. There is also a separate page for senior graduate studies.
There are some people who are not interested in retiring to Florida. If you’re in that boat, you might want to consider the Last Frontier State if you prefer a colder climate in your retirement years.
At the University of Alaska, which comprises three campuses across the state, residents 65 and older are eligible for free tuition. There are no fees or surcharges associated with course fees and surcharges, and admission to classes is granted on a “space available” basis.
Those who qualify for the Senior Citizen Tuition Waiver must fill out a short form.
In Arizona, tuition deals for older residents aren’t free. There is, however, a 50% discount on resident tuition rates at Maricopa (County) Community Colleges for residents 65 and over (currently $85 per credit hour). Fees for registration and specific courses are also required.
Those over the age of 65 are eligible for a senior discount on all for-credit classes in the college system with open seats. Non-credit courses do not qualify for a discount.
Are looking for a classroom environment designed exclusively for seniors? Arizona State University and the University of Arizona offer noncredit courses through their Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which partners with universities nationwide to offer noncredit courses. The membership fee is $20 per semester.
All state-supported colleges, including community colleges, waive tuition and student fees for Arkansas residents 60 and older.
In this case, the freebie is available only for for-credit courses, and it is subject to availability.
As a result of Education Code 89330, CSU students who are seniors are entitled to free tuition. That means all campuses must waive tuition for California residents ages 60 and over. A number of tuition, application, health, and instructional fees are waived.
In addition, California state colleges also waive application fees and class activity fees for older students. For student fees, which cover the student body association and health facilities, you’ll only have to pay $1.
Students in their golden years can take courses in art, the humanities, agriculture, and computer science during regular sessions.
The Colorado State University offers free classes for lifelong learners age 55 and older on a space-available basis. But those classes don’t lead to college credits. To request a lifetime learner class visit, complete the Lifetime Learner Class Visitation Request Form. Students who are lifelong learners will not be charged for student services such as student health, counseling, and event tickets.
Continuing education classes such as theater, Italian, and women’s studies are free for lifelong learners. Just note that the cost of additional courses is determined on an individual basis.
Residents 62 years of age and older are eligible to receive free tuition at Connecticut colleges and universities, according to state law. Across the state, the University of Connecticut, Connecticut State University, and 12 regional community-technical colleges follow this policy. But, it may be a good idea to focus on UConn’s senior citizen audit program, which allows seniors to audit undergraduate courses.
It is possible to apply for credits from the courses to a degree. There are, however, parameters:
- Applicants age 62 and older, who have been admitted to UConn and CSU, are eligible for the tuition waiver.
- After paying students have enrolled in the course, there must also be enough room in the course.
- Tuition is free, but any additional class fees are your responsibility.
For Delaware residents 60 and older, Delaware’s three public higher education institutions, including the University of Delaware, waive tuition and other fees. As a matter of state law, Chapter 34, Subchapter X to be exact, it’s enforceable. Be aware, though, that UD’s Over-60 Tuition-Free Degree Program works on a space-available basis and doesn’t cover continuing education.
Residents aged 65 and older have access to classes after paying students have enrolled. A formal degree must be pursued by older applicants, as well as meeting all the class requirements. For example, if only students majoring in that field are eligible.
Students 60 and older must pay lab fees, books, and other supplies related to the course even with free tuition.
Any Florida resident over 60 who takes for-credit classes at one of Florida’s state universities is exempt from tuition and fees thanks to Florida statute Chapter 1009. But, the credits you earn won’t count toward your degree. Also, all students who pay for classes, as well as state employees, get first dibs.
In particular, UF’s 60-plus program offers free tuition and covers fees for seniors auditing courses. Waivers are subject to availability, and courses may be restricted by the university.
Several states’ constitutions mention free education for senior citizens, and Georgia is one of them.
Under Provision 22.214.171.124 in the Georgia Constitution, seniors aged 62 and over are eligible for free college. Unless the course is taken at a dental, medical, veterinary, or law school, state residents do not have to pay tuition for higher education.
An in-state graduate-level tuition waiver and applicable student fees are included in the 62 or Older Program at Georgia Tech, one of the nation’s top tech institutes.
At the University of Hawaii and state community colleges, courses are free for residents aged 60 and older. This is through the Senior Citizens Visitor Program, which is also known as Nā Kūpuna Program. This translates to “honored ancestor”.
No college credit is given, and no permanent records are kept.
On a space-available basis, University of Idaho courses is available to Idaho residents aged 60 and older. Each credit hour costs $5, plus $20 for the course.
It is necessary to wait until after regular registration has ended before registering. In addition to lab fees and special course fees, participants must pay other fees.
Participating in this program only gives participants access to the library and class instruction. Unfortunately, unlike paying students, you won’t have access to athletic events or recreation facilities.
Boise State University, the College of Southern Idaho, and Lewis-Clark State College are other Idaho universities that offer free or low-cost tuition to seniors.
Are you a Windy City fan, but prefer the suburbs? In that case, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a research pioneer, offers more than 5,000 courses in more than 150 undergraduate studies.
Furthermore, if your household income is below 200% of the federal poverty level and you are 65 or older, you can apply free of charge. Also, to attend the university, you must apply and be accepted.
You may qualify for the Senior Citizen Courses Act Tuition Waiver if you meet these requirements. However, the waiver does not cover fees or other non-tuition costs. This program does not offer extramural or correspondence courses.
Those households that meet the low-income requirements may also receive free tuition at the University of Illinois, Southern Illinois University, Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Governors State University, Illinois State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, and all public community colleges if they meet the low-income requirements.
There isn’t as much generosity in the Hoosier State as in other states. On the other hand, residents 65 and older can take up to nine credits at the state’s public universities at 50% off the normal in-state tuition. It is the student’s responsibility to pay lab fees, application fees, and registration fees.
Indiana State University and Indiana University are among the participating schools.
In Indianola, Iowa, Simpson College offers non-credit classes tuition-free for people 65 and older. Are you interested in taking a course for credit? Those can be taken for $375 per credit hour at the discounted rate.
FYI, lab courses do not come with a discount or are free. All classes are subject to space availability, and you may only enroll in one course each semester.
Moreover, Des Moines Area Community College offers free for-credit courses to students 62 and older.
Kansas residents age 60 and older are entitled to free tuition under Chapter 2, Section B.1 of the Kansas Board of Regents Policy Manual. As a result of this law, students can audit eligible courses for free at a state university, including Kansas University in Lawrence.
Nondegree-seeking undergraduates and graduates at the Medical Center and KU’s main campus may qualify for a senior citizen waiver. Each semester, students are required to submit a form.
Always wanted to cheer on the Wildcats? If so, you can take advantage of Donovan Scholarship tuition waiver.
The program is only available to adults over the age of 65 who are taking academic courses. With the exception of age and class space availability, tuition programs are fairly flexible. With a Donovan Scholarship, you are able to audit classes without earning credit. Alternatively, you can earn credit even if you don’t plan to earn a degree. If you are seeking a degree, you can enroll in courses as well.
The university will need to accept you for admission if you’re working toward a degree. There are no educational requirements for auditing undergraduate courses.
Tuition and registration fees are waived for residents 55 and older at Louisiana’s public colleges and universities. The program also offers half-priced “reference books, manuals, and other aids to instruction which are required by any course in which such student is enrolled when purchased from a public college or university-operated bookstore.”
Senior citizens (65 years and older) can take advantage of free college tuition at the University of Maine college system. It also includes those irritating mandatory fees colleges and universities so notoriously charge.
All University of Maine outposts offer undergraduate courses for credit or audit free of charge. Just note that there is a space-available basis for acceptance.
For students 60 years of age and older, the University of Maryland at College Park offers the Golden ID Card Program that waives tuition. Other fees, however, may apply.
There are, however, a few conditions. Applicants must be Maryland residents, U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and retired (defined as “not engaged in gainful employment for more than 20 hours a week”).
It is possible to register for both degree-seeking and non-degree-seeking courses if you meet the university’s admission requirements.
Program participants have access to academic services including library access and can enroll in three courses per semester.
State residents over 60 years of age, who the Commonwealth calls “senior citizens,” are exempt from tuition at public universities and colleges within Massachusetts’ higher education system. These include UMass Boston and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
As a Michigan state resident, you’ll need to check to see if the public college or university you want to attend offers free or reduced tuition. For example, Northern Michigan University offers “full tuition scholarships” to residents aged 62 and older. Courses taken off-campus or online are not included. To apply, you must pay an application fee (fee waived), and you must purchase books and course materials.
Here are some more examples
- Central Michigan University. There is no charge for seniors 60 and over to audit classes.
- Lake Superior State University. Classes are free for students 60 and older.
- Michigan Tech. For students 60 and older, the university waives tuition and fees for up to two courses per semester.
- Western Michigan University. Locals 62 and older can take one course for free each semester.
Courses are tuition-free for Minnesota residents 62 and older at the University of Minnesota and across Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Students who participate in the program are also exempt from activity fees, but they must pay administration fees — unless they are auditing the course. Course materials and service fees may also be charged.
Senior citizens can audit courses at the University of Minnesota for free. But if you wish to earn college credits, you must pay the affordable $10 per credit. Lab fees, course fees, and materials must also be paid.
The Magnolia State doesn’t have a statewide program for free (or nearly so) college tuition, unlike many other states. However, specific universities and colleges do offer some incentives for late-life education.
Using the University of Mississippi’s Lifelong Learners Program, Ole Miss seniors age 65 may take one academic course tuition-free (up to four credits). On any University of Mississippi campus, you can attend classes with your younger peers.
The University of Mississippi also caters to true seniors. Up to two on-campus classes per semester can be taken tuition-free by state residents aged 60 and older. There are a limited number of spaces available on a first-come, first-served basis. And as the university states, “senior citizen students are responsible for paying any course or laboratory fees; distance fees; cost of course materials or textbooks. Credit hours taken in excess of the specified limits of this policy shall be paid by the senior citizen as the actual tuition for those hours.”
For both universities, seniors must apply in the usual way.
By law, Missouri residents age 65 and older are guaranteed scholarships that include tuition waivers for all public institutions, including community colleges and State Tech. College credit is not given for courses taken by scholarship recipients, and courses are accepted according to space availability.
Moreover, the school is permitted to charge a registration fee of no more than $25 per semester. To apply, you must first go through the application process.
There are many programs in the Montana State University System that cater to late-life learners. These include the University of Montana and Montana State University campuses, as well as community colleges. Universities within the system offer tuition waivers (or acceptance to the Golden College Program, as the University of Montana calls it) to residents 65 years and older. A senior student’s tuition is covered, but all other fees are their responsibility.
If you are accepted to a course after the third week of the semester, you may need to catch up for three weeks or more.
In Nebraska, older students don’t qualify for a statewide tuition waiver program. There are, however, some colleges that offer free or discounted tuition.
For instance, Chadron State College offers tuition waivers to seniors. As long as there is space available, you may audit one course per semester.
The University of Nevada Las Vegas partners with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute to offer classes to seniors. UNLV reports that the “OLLI at UNLV program is designed specifically for retired and semi-retired adults who are interested in continuing their education and having the opportunity to meet new and interesting peers.”
It is possible for members to attend as many classes as they like, as long as there is space available. Fall or spring semester registration costs $90. The annual membership fee is $175.
A number of past courses have included The American Election System, Films of David Lean, and Nevada History.
At the University of New Hampshire, seniors can take up to two for-credit courses tuition-free each academic year. Other costs for the class, including fees and required materials, are the responsibility of the student.
The University offers enrollment based on available space, as with most educational institutions.
According to availability, Rutgers offers free college courses to seniors through its Senior Citizen Audit Program. Residents of the Garden State over the age of 62 can audit classes for no tuition cost but must pay for textbooks.
At Rutgers’ campuses in New Brunswick, Camden, and Newark, seniors can take free college courses.
Retirement classes in New Mexico aren’t free, but they’re pretty cheap. As a result of the Senior Citizens Reduced Tuition Act of 1984, this program is governed by statute.
Upon request by the student, all public post-secondary institutions in the state must reduce tuition for senior citizens — age 65 or older. Per credit hour, there is a fee of $5.
There are some restrictions:
- Course requirements must be met.
- The maximum number of credits you can take per semester is six.
- In order to attend a campus, you must enroll there.
- If there is an additional course fee, you must pay it.
- There must be space available for you to enroll.
There are also non-credit seminars, workshops, and courses available for retirees at many SUNY campuses.
University of North Carolina campuses and community colleges offer tuition-free audit classes to seniors 65 and older, on a space-available basis. Additionally, there is no registration fee. But there may be an application fee, depending on the college.
Are you interested in earning college credit? Every semester, seniors 65 and older can take six hours of for-credit courses at the state’s community colleges.
There is no law granting free or nearly free tuition to older residents of North Dakota, unlike many other states. Some state schools, however, offer tuition-free programs with some homework.
North Dakota State University offers one audit course per semester to people 65 and older under its Project 65 policy. There is no tuition or fee associated with this program. Academic departments teaching the courses must grant clearance to participants to audit their courses. Grades and credit aren’t given since it’s an audited course.
State residents 65 and older can also attend Bismarck State College tuition-free for one course per semester if space is available. Fees and other mandatory class expenses are not included in the waiver.
And, at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, students 65 and older can audit classroom courses if space permits, but fees and course materials must be paid.
According to Ohio Revised Code Section 3345.27, all public universities and colleges in Ohio, including community colleges, allow residents age 60 and older to audit undergraduate, graduate-level, or online college courses tuition-free. It is your responsibility, though, to obtain instructor approval and to pay any course fees, including lab fees and required course materials.
There is a law that allows schools to forbid certain classes from enrolling students. “in which physical demands upon students are inappropriate for imposition upon persons 60 years of age or older.”
Students 65 and older can audit classes tuition-free at Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities as long as there is space. In addition, fees are waived.
Senior citizens in Oregon are eligible to audit classes at the University of Oregon at no charge under the senior citizen registration classification. Each department must approve the benefit based on space availability.
In addition to creative writing and metalsmithing classes, seniors can take language, digital art, and disability studies courses.
Currently, Pennsylvania does not have a tuition-free law for older students. However, if you look hard enough, you can find a few. Pennsylvania State University, for example, offers a Go-60 program in which state residents 60 and up can take up to six credits each semester, tuition-free, for credit or audit.
People 62 and over can audit up to 12 credits at Clarion University of Pennsylvania free of tuition and fees, provided there is space available. The textbooks and other course materials you need will have to be purchased by you.
Older students are also eligible for free tuition at many community colleges in the Keystone State. Residents 65 and older may enroll free of charge in for-credit courses at Bucks County Community College, near Philadelphia. You may have to pay registration fees.
There are three colleges in Rhode Island where seniors can pursue their desired programs: the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and Community College of Rhode Island. As a senior, you can apply to these institutions in almost the same way as you would to most colleges. To qualify, one must be at least 60 years old.
In addition to an application for a tuition waiver, these three institutions require a Senior Citizen Means Test. It is administered to determine if the senior applying has a limited income. A FAFSA must also be submitted by seniors who want to pursue a degree.
For seniors who qualify, Clemson University waives tuition costs.
The university offers Senior Citizen Enrollment to South Carolina residents over 60 years old and who reside in the state.
In classes with space available, you can audit or enroll for credit. The best part? You can take as many credits as you want.
The University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Northern State University, Dakota State University, and Black Hills State University all offer 45% tuition discounts to state residents 65 and older.
There is a tuition discount only, not a discount on fees or other course expenses. You can take courses for credit or simply audit them. Online courses are not covered.
When you retire in Tennessee and establish residency, you have the opportunity to further your education at an unbelievable price. Residents 65 and older (and possibly 55 and older if you qualify) can take classes for credit at all state-supported universities and colleges. Fees for maintenance, activities, and student activities are also waived.
The only fee you have to pay is a record-keeping fee ($45 a quarter or $70 a semester).
State-funded colleges and universities in the Lone Star State allow residents 65 and older to take six credit hours per semester. After all, it is the law under Chapter 54 of the Texas Education Code. Fees, books, and continuing education classes are not covered by this award.
Up to six credits of tuition are free at UT Austin. Which, if you weren’t aware, is one of the top public universities in the country
As per Utah law, older residents receive free college tuition, if you define “lunch” as college tuition. Residents 62 and older are exempt from tuition and other charges at Utah colleges and universities (space permitting). According to the University of Utah, these are audited courses. To use the library and such, you will also need a University of Utah student card, which costs $10.
There may also be a registration fee that varies by institution: the University of Utah charges $25 per semester, and Salt Lake Community College charges $10.
A Vermont resident 65 and older can audit one tuition-free course per semester at a college within the Vermont State Colleges System, including:
- Castleton College
- Community College of Vermont
- Northern Vermont University
- Vermont Technical College.
There is no limit to the number of classes you can take. For each course, you will receive a 50% discount off the regular tuition rate, and you can earn undergraduate credits.
For Virginia residents age 60 and older taking three full- or part-time courses for academic credit, the Higher Education Act, Code 23.1–640, waives tuition. In the year preceding the award year, an applicant’s individual taxable income cannot exceed $23,850.
Under the Senior Citizen Waiver Program at the University of Virginia, for-credit courses are offered without tuition or fees.
Students 60 and older are entitled to a tuition and fee waiver at Washington state universities, regional universities, The Evergreen State’s colleges, and Washington’s community colleges and tech schools. These are credit courses.
According to the law, state schools may also charge senior citizens a nominal fee ($5) for auditing a course. That comes out to $5 per course at South Seattle College and Bellevue College. At Spokane Falls Community College, classes cost $2.50, so it varies by college.
As the University of Washington’s website states, senior auditors are admitted to classes as nonmatriculated students (up to six credits per semester). It is not necessary for you to take tests, write papers, or participate in class discussions. There are some courses that cannot be taken.
Under West Virginia law, citizens 65 and older are able to enroll in courses for credit or non-credit at reduced tuition and fees.
For non-credit courses, the total tuition and fee charge cannot exceed $50, and for for-credit courses, tuition cannot exceed 50% of the normal rate charged to in-state residents.
Moreover, students who apply as senior citizens will be admitted as non-degree students at West Virginia University. The application fee is $5, and you must indicate whether you wish to apply for credit on the form.
For adults 50 and older, the University of Wisconsin offers continuing studies programs. There are in-person and online courses available for professional development and personal enrichment. Senior citizens (with instructor approval) can audit courses for free.
Noncredit classes in history, languages, and writing are also offered through the Continuing Studies program at the top public university.
Several Wisconsin colleges and universities offer discounts on graduate courses for seniors, including Marquette University, which offers 50% off graduate courses for Wisconsin residents aged 62 and older. In addition, you can audit undergraduate courses (no grades, no credit) at a half-price discount. When it comes to those over 62 who are interested in graduate courses, they must “have the proper background and prerequisites for the course in question.”
On a space-available basis, Wyoming residents 65 and older can attend classes for free at the University of Wyoming. To attend the university, you must be admitted and show proof of your age and residency.
There are also special incentives available to retirees at some of Wyoming’s community colleges. As an example, Laramie County Community College allows students age 60 and over to take classes for credit at a 20% discount off the resident tuition rate plus course fees. At the beginning of the semester, students must bring their driver’s license to the Student Hub.
1. As a senior citizen, how do I apply for online college?
In comparison to younger students, senior citizens find the college application process much easier. Typically, there is no requirement for test scores, such as SAT, ACT, or GRE, and no essay is required.
There will be different requirements for different states and institutions. However, they generally include the following:
- A minimum age of 60 is required.
- It is mandatory for you to be a U.S. citizen.
- High school diplomas or equivalents are required.
- The income requirements for certain waivers and discounts must be met.
2. What are the best colleges for seniors?
You should find out what degree or training a job requires if you’re retired and still want to work. You can use the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook to determine what degree level you need and the field of study you should concentrate on. Also, ensure that the schools you choose match your educational requirements.
For more information, visit those schools’ websites or contact them by phone or email to speak with a knowledgeable staff member.
3. Are senior citizens eligible for tuition waivers?
A 2008 survey by the American Council on Education found that 60 percent of accredited degree-granting educational institutions in the U.S. offer tuition waivers for older adults. Many schools offer discounts to senior citizens or let them attend classes for free, even if they don’t have tuition waivers.
It is often necessary to get permission from the instructor in order to receive a tuition waiver because space is limited. There may be restrictions on credit-bearing courses at some schools, while noncredit courses may be eligible at others. A high school diploma and proof of state residency are usually required for eligible participants in some states.
Due to the fact that these programs are not well-publicized, finding the right information may take a little digging. Check your state’s policies or search these sites for terms like “lifelong learning,” “tuition waiver,” and “mature students.”
4. What college Grants and scholarships are available for senior citizens?
If you are a senior, you may be eligible for scholarships and grants offered by the state and university, as well as discount programs offered by private companies. You can determine your eligibility for state and federal financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Additionally, state governments and individual universities offer a variety of scholarships exclusively to seniors. You should still check each individual program for specific costs, but so-called “Encore Programs” are generally offered at moderate or no cost.
5. Why should retirees attend college?
The brain may actually grow new cells and make new connections when we learn something new. In particular, this is of particular importance to seniors, as learning may improve cognitive health and reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Besides that, there are other benefits to going back to school for people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s as well:
- Prospects for better employment or generating a new income
- Taking part in social activities
- Developing new skills for part-time employment after retirement
- Growing as a person
- A better understanding of technology