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Retirees Going to College: Discounts and Tuition Waivers for Seniors

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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.

Discounted College Tuition for Senior Citizens

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.

Retirees Taking College Classes for Fun

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.

Free College for Senior Citizens

The programs mentioned in the Associated Press report include:

  • The Go-60 Program at Penn State University offers free continuing education courses for Pennsylvania residents aged 60 and over that meet certain requirements.
  • Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio has an Alumni/Senior Audit program that allows Cleveland residents aged 65 and older and Case Western alumni of any age to take specified courses across for a reduced tuition fee of $40 per credit hour (beginning in the Fall 2010 semester.)
  • Boston University’s Evergreen Program gives people aged 58 and older the ability to audit undergraduate courses for $125. They can attend series of lecture seminars led by Boston University faculty for as little as $20, and a 12-month, $325 Evergreen Program sponsorship provides the opportunity to audit most classes and the numerous lecture series for free.
  • The University of Delaware allows eligible seniors aged 60 and older to participate in its Over-60 Tuition Free Degree Program, which provides free undergraduate or graduate tuition.

Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act Silver Scholars Program

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.

Textbooks and Fees

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+

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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