Senior Citizens Can Go to College for Free or Cheap in All 50 States

November 2, 2016
by Lisa Rowan
Writer and Producer
free college courses for senior citizens

We’re living longer than ever before, and doing so in better health. So what can you do when you retire and want to keep your mind sharp or need to gain additional skills to stay competitive at work?

For many, the answer is to go back to school. But tuition can be prohibitively expensive.

At the same time, schools want their classrooms to be full of engaged students, regardless of age. In the interest of continuing education, many colleges and universities offer reduced or free college tuition to senior citizens (typically, adults 60 and up, although the rules vary).

In fact, we found at least one option in every state!

While some institutions only allow senior students to audit classes, many offer the chance to earn credits toward a degree at a reduced — or completely waived — tuition rate.

Does your state have a continuing education you can use in your golden years? Find out below!

1. Alabama

Alabama seniors can attend any two-year institution within the state completely free.

Adults 60 and older should contact the financial aid office at any community college for admission and eligibility details.

2. Alaska

The University of Alaska waives tuition for senior-citizen residents old enough to receive full social-security benefits. Seniors must wait until the first day of classes to enroll to ensure that there’s space remaining; they must also complete a tuition-waiver form.

Additional costs such as student activity, health center and lab fees are not covered; the student must pay them directly.

3. Arizona

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.

4. Arkansas

Arkansas waives 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.

5. California

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California State University waives all tuition and dramatically reduces campus fees for residents age 60 or older.

6. Colorado

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 classes as auditors when space is available.

Courses with a lab component are excluded, along with computer courses.

7. Connecticut

Residents 62 and up may attend state colleges, including community colleges, for free.

At Central Connecticut State University, for example, tuition and university fees are 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.

8. Delaware

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.

9. 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.

10. Florida

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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.

Fun fact: Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Society has the largest adult continuing education program in the U.S. It even has its own auditorium on campus to help serve FAU’s 25,000 new registrants each year.

11. Georgia

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.

12. Hawaii

The Senior Citizen Visitor Program at the University of Hawaii and state community colleges allows senior residents to attend courses free of charge, but schools will not award credit nor will they keep permanent records of students’ class history.

13. Idaho

Programs in Idaho vary based on institution, 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 60 years old can apply, register and pay only $5 per credit hour, along with a $20 registration fee each semester. These same prices also apply at Lewis-Clark State College, but you can only attend part time.

14. Illinois

Upon admission, any senior citizen age 65 and up can attend regular credit courses at Illinois public institutions for free. Lab, student and other fees still apply.

15. Indiana

Retired residents of Indiana age 60 and above can take up to nine credit hours per semester and pay just 50% of in-state tuition fees. Status toward earning a degree is determined by each individual school’s policy.

Indiana University allows senior citizens to register three days before the start of the semester to ensure there is space available.

16. Iowa

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A few community colleges offer discounts for senior citizens, including Eastern Iowa Community College’s Plus 50 Program, aimed toward adults looking to boost their employment options.

17. Kansas

Kansas residents 60 and older can audit courses at state institutions on a space-available basis without paying tuition or fees.

The registration process varies: the University of Kansas and Wichita State University, for example, both require senior auditors to apply for admission.

18. Kentucky

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.

19. Louisiana

Students aged 55 and up attending Louisiana state schools receive free tuition and 50% off books and materials at the campus student bookstore.

20. Maine

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.

21. Maryland

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.

22. Massachusetts

Residents age 60 or older can take at least three credits per semester at any state-supported school in Massachusetts and receive free tuition.

23. Michigan

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; they do not pay required student fees. Although a school representative said that most seniors taking advantage of this program are not degree-seeking, these credits are eligible to be put toward a degree.

Western Michigan University invites seniors 62 and older to audit one class per semester after submitting a non-degree application.

Seniors 60 and up receive free tuition at Northern Michigan University; at Wayne State University in Detroit, seniors 60 and up receive a 75% discount on tuition, but must pay registration and related fees.

24. Minnesota

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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.

25. Mississippi

There’s no statewide benefit in Mississippi, but some schools have programs for seniors. Mississippi State University provides a waiver for residents age 60 or older, but only for two courses per semester 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.

26. Missouri

Missouri residents age 65 and older are exempt from paying tuition at state-supported institutions for classes attended on non-credit basis. Schools may require a registration fee of up to $25 per semester.

27. Montana

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.

28. Nebraska

Several Nebraska colleges offer waivers to senior citizens. Chadron College allows adults 65 and up to audit one course per semester for free. Senior women can audit one class per semester for free at the College of St. Mary in Omaha.

At Mid-Plains Community College, seniors 62 and older pay 35% of the normal tuition rate.

29. Nevada

The University of Nevada – Las Vegas allows seniors 62 and up to take fall and spring courses free of charge. They pay 50% tuition for summer classes. Lab and other course fees are not covered.

30. New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire offers residents 65 and older free tuition for two credit-bearing classes per semester on a space-available basis, so long as they’re not enrolled in a degree program.

Seniors can take one undergraduate or graduate course per semester for free at Plymouth State University.

31. New Jersey

Senior citizens 65 and older may enroll at public colleges in New Jersey on a space-available basis. Fees still apply for these students, whether auditing or studying for credit.

Rutgers University allows retired New Jersey residents 62 and older to audit courses for free in the spring and fall semesters.

32. New Mexico

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New Mexico offers reduced tuition of just of $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.

33. New York

Many schools offer free or reduced tuition for senior citizens. Queens College allows residents 60 and up to audit any course after completing a Senior Citizen Auditor Application and paying $80 per semester.

At SUNY Purchase, senior citizens 60 and older must register in person to audit classes that have space available; they pay a $50 audit fee.

34. North Carolina

Tuition is waived for senior citizens 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 paying a $75 application fee.

35. North Dakota

Programs vary by institution in North Dakota. At Bismarck State, for example, senior citizens 65 and older can audit courses tuition-free, but are still responsible for other course fees. The same rule applies for Lake Region State College.  

36. Ohio

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.

37. Oklahoma

Oklahoma state colleges and universities waive tuition for senior citizens 65+ who wish to audit classes.

38. Oregon

Oregon State University allows senior citizens to audit classes for free.

The University of Oregon also waives fees for seniors 65 and older auditing classes on a space-available basis.

39. Pennsylvania

Clarion University offers an audit-fee waiver for residents 62 and up. At Bloomsburg University, you only need to be 60 to audit classes for free 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.

40. Rhode Island

Senior citizens over 60 may request a tuition waiver at the University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College or 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.

41. South Carolina

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.

42. South Dakota

Residents 65 and older can attend public universities in South Dakota at 25% of the normal cost of tuition for undergraduate or graduate courses.

Interested adults should apply through the regular admissions system and the school will automatically grant the discount upon admission. Student fees are not waived.

43. Tennessee

Tennessee residents 65 and older may enroll in courses for credit at state schools and community colleges.

Schools may charge a service fee of up to $70 per semester that goes toward the keeping of records for those students.  

44. Texas

Texas law allows students 65 and up the opportunity to take six credit hours of undergraduate or graduate courses for free at public universities.

A senior citizen attending the University of Texas at Austin, for example, could earn a degree for free if they only take six credit hours per semester and maintain a 2.0 GPA.

Students must present proof of age to the accounts receivable office to have the exemption applied to their accounts.

45. Utah

Residents age 62 and up may enroll tuition-free at a state institution; a 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.

46. Vermont

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Until 2016, Vermonters over the age of 65 could take two non-credit classes per semester for free in the Vermont State College system, including community colleges.

Now, anyone 60 and older must pay half tuition for classes, and they will receive credit.

47. Virginia

Although the state law regarding free higher education for senior citizens earning taxable income of less than $23,850 per year was repealed in 2016, some schools still offer tuition-free registration for senior citizens.

For instance, senior citizens 60 and above who wish to audit or take classes for credit at William & Mary must enroll at least one week before the start of the semester but may register for courses on the first day classes begin.

48. Washington

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 in each of fall and spring semesters. Other schools may only offer tuition-free audit options.

49. West Virginia

West Virginia allows residents age 65 and older to attend undergraduate and graduate courses on a space-available basis; both for-credit and audit options are available. Schools may still require seniors to pay fees such as parking.

While 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.

50. Wisconsin

Adults 60 and up may audit classes at any University of Wisconsin campus for free, where space is available.

51. Wyoming

Upon admission to the University of Wyoming, senior citizens 65 and up may attend class on a space-available basis for free.

Community colleges offer a tuition-waiver form seniors can submit; the waivers do not cover student or other fees.

Another Continuing Education Option

More than 100 colleges and universities around the country offer another continuing education program for senior citizens: enrichment courses through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).

Prices vary depending upon the institution; some have an annual fee, like the University of Minnesota’s basic membership of $210 per year. Other schools charge a class-based fee; Duke University has a $35 annual membership fee, and then charges $20 to $90 per class.

OLLI classes don’t count toward a degree, but if you’re looking for personal development opportunities among older adults, these courses can provide opportunities that mix in the campus experience, too.

Your Turn: Did you go back to school after retirement? What discounts did your college offer to senior citizens?

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder. Editorial intern Jacquelyn Pica contributed to this post.

by Lisa Rowan
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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