Under normal circumstances I’d think of prospective high school graduates when reading the words seniors and college in the same sentence, but programs giving retired people the chance to take college courses for free or at substantially discounted rates are popping up across the country.
An August 6, 2010 news report from the Associated Press disclosed that discounted tuition is available for senior citizens and retirees across the United States, and in many situations they’re able to take classes for free.
The college programs for seniors vary from state to state or from school to school, but plenty of programs are out there. In some cases there are age restrictions – seniors typically must be at least 60, 62, or 65 years old – and some schools apply income restrictions.
Seventy-eight year old Pete Shannon of Dallas, Texas is a retired senior that goes to college for fun these days. Associated Press writer Dave Carpenter explained that Mr. Shannon has taken dozens of classes at his local community college since retiring in 2004, even though he graduated from college nearly six decades ago. In the Dallas area, residents that are 65 or older can take up to six credit hours at Richland College each semester—for free!
The Associated Press reports that 21 states and the District of Columbia offer free tuition for seniors at some or all of their public colleges. According to the website FinAid.org, those states are Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.
The programs mentioned in the Associated Press report include:
In addition to college programs for seniors that are in place by the schools or states themselves, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act is a national opportunity for people to volunteer and take college courses. The act’s Silver Scholars program offers a $1,000 education award to people aged 55 and older that have performed 350 hours of community service. The seniors can also opt to transfer their education award to a child or grandchild if they do not plan on attending classes themselves.
In most cases the participating senior students must purchase their own textbooks and course materials, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping people.
Pete Shannon, the 78-year old from Texas, told the Associated Press that he estimates he’s spent no more than $1,000 on education expenses since he retired, but he’d dig spend more if he had to.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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