Senior Citizens Can Go to College for Free or Cheap in All 50 States
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.
Free (or Cheap) College for Seniors 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!
Alabama seniors can attend any two-year institution within the state tuition-free.
Adults 60 and older should contact the financial aid office at any community college for admission and eligibility details.
The University of Alaska waives tuition for senior-citizen residents who 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.
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 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.
California State University waives all tuition and dramatically reduces campus fees for residents age 60 or older.
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. It is up to the instructor how participation and grading of assignments and tests are handled.
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, as are computer courses.)
Note: This lifelong learner program has been suspended for the spring of 2021.
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.
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.
In order to audit a course, there must be available space and the instructor of record must approve the enrollment.
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 30,000 new registrants each year.
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 age 60 and up to attend courses free of charge. Currently, only online courses are available due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schools will not award credit nor will they keep permanent records of students’ class history.
Programs in Idaho vary based on institution, but some schools offer good deals. The College of Southern Idaho offers free tuition for lower division coursesa Gold Card for students age 60 years and older, in addition to other benefits..
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 meet income requirements can attend regular credit courses at Illinois public institutions for free. Lab, student and other fees still apply.
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.
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.
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 is retired and over the age of 60 may have tuition waived, even for degree-granting programs.
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.
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 (up to four hours) 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 the tuition benefit 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. Chadron State College allows adults 65 and up to audit one course per semester for free.
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 $34 per credit hour. Senior citizens who are residents of other states pay $44 per credit hour.
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.
30. New Hampshire
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.
31. New Jersey
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. Current guidelines only allow senior citizens to audit virtual classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
32. New Mexico
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.
33. New York
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.
34. North Carolina
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.
35. North Dakota
Programs vary by 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. They are still responsible for special assessments, such as lab fees, that may apply.
Oklahoma state colleges and universities waive tuition and fees for senior citizens 65+ who wish to audit classes on a space-available basis.
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.
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 who are paying full tuition.
40. Rhode Island
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.
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 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.
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.
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 of 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.
49. West Virginia
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.
Adults 60 and up may audit classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus for free, where space is available.
Upon admission to the University of Wyoming, senior citizens 65 and up may attend class on a space-available basis for free.
Another Continuing Education Option
Prices vary depending upon the institution. Duke University, for example, has a $45 annual membership fee, and then charges $25 to $150 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.