Seniors in college

Free College Courses For Seniors: Why Seniors Are Hitting the Books

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Many seniors are looking for more from their retirement. They often experience feelings of loss when they leave their careers. They no longer have the social interaction and challenges that come from employment. Going back to college for free solves many of those issues.

If you are a senior looking to expand your horizons or simply finish what you started in your younger years, then going back to college may be a great fit for you. We will explore many of the new options that are available to seniors that would like to explore going back to school options in retirement. There are many free and reduced cost resources if you are not looking to pursue your degree.

Why Are More Seniors Returning to School?

Many seniors are returning to school. Not only to learn and stay active but to also find a sense of purpose in their retirement. Often, seniors struggle with the loss of their social life from leaving their careers. Going back to campus can fulfill that missing piece of retirement for many seniors.

Some campuses also allow seniors to reside in campus housing. This can give seniors a sense of community, whether or not they find other people their age doing the same thing.

Retired in college

How Do I Get Free Tuition?

There are several options when looking into a lower-cost program or a free tuition program. Many colleges offer free tuition to senior students who only want to audit classes.

If you are looking to pursue a degree then many schools will still offer classes at a significantly reduced rate. In fact, some states have made it mandatory for seniors to be able to have access to free college courses. There are income requirements to receive aid.

According to, the states which offer statewide tuition waivers at public colleges include 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, Virginia and Washington DC.

Even if your state is not listed here, many colleges will offer seniors a significant discount to fill those seats. You just need to call and ask what they are offering.

If you are over the age of 55 there are volunteer opportunities that may allow you to receive education awards. They can be up to $1,000 for 350 hours of volunteer service through the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. You may use these awards for your own education or they can be transferred to a child or grandchild.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

The Bernard Osher Foundation started the Lifelong Learning Institutes. The Osher website states that they offer, “A diverse repertoire of intellectually stimulating, non-credit courses and educational activities, specifically designed for people who are 50 years of age or older.”

Osher works directly with colleges and universities to help underserved seniors obtain higher education. There are currently 122 schools working with them.

You can reach out to your local college to see if they have any of their programs available. There is typically a nominal membership fee and classes run $50 each.


Coursera is an online learning program that offers free or nominal cost courses for seniors and other students as well. The cool thing about Coursera is that they work with top universities like Duke and Stanford. Coursera also works with large corporations like Google and IBM.

This makes their course offerings interesting and versatile. You can take courses that range from poetry to technology classes. You can learn the latest skills and maybe even earn a certificate that will help you to launch a second career in retirement.

The Online Course Report

The Online Course Report offers 5400 free courses from top universities. You can put in the type of degree you want and it will show you what is available in the area of study.

What I love about this blog is that it also offers educational information on how to navigate the online courses that are offered on the web. It speaks to its quality and offers sound advice.

It is a great resource for learning how to prepare for standardized tests. Let’s say you are interested in pursuing a law degree. The online course report offers help on how to pass the LSAT. Most seniors are not interested in a law career. Some folks might be and if you are like me and you retired early, you might consider that path.

How Do I Pay For Classes That Are Not Free

If you do want to obtain a degree there are ways to get assistance with paying for school. I would never recommend going into debt.

You can consider working for a large company like Starbucks that offers tuition reimbursement. Often, banks, retail stores like Walmart and Target offer these programs to assist employees in furthering their education.

If you have a 529 plan for your kid’s education, you can also use it for your education if they did not use it all.

Wrap Up

Whether you are pursuing a degree or just want to audit classes, heading back to college is a great way to expand your horizons.

Because it offers social opportunities that seniors may be craving, college can be a great way for seniors to create a stable routine. Going back to school also helps seniors strengthen their cognitive abilities. Professors and students also welcome a more mature perspective to the classroom. Having seniors in the classroom is a win for everyone.

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50 responses to “Free College Courses For Seniors: Why Seniors Are Hitting the Books”

  1. Danielle Ardizzone Avatar
    Danielle Ardizzone

    My aunt got her law degree after retiring from her teaching career – she says it was the best decision she ever made! We should all be learning throughout our lives.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Wow! That is quite an accomplishment!

  2. Cindy Avatar

    Great resource for college classes! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Kenni Avatar

    I love that this will encourage seniors to pursue higher or additional education. Great options! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Thank you Kenni! I hope those who are interested will take advantage!

  4. Sarah Avatar

    Very interesting – lifelong learning keeps the mind sharp.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is a great way for seniors to stay active mentally and physically!

  5. Maya Avatar

    So informative and a great list. Thank you.

  6. Suz @ Avatar
    Suz @

    I took classes for fun after retiring from the University of New Mexico – one retirement benefit is free Continuing Ed classes. I’ve taken guitar lessons and watercolor classes, and dance classes – had a blast!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Nice! I love that they have all kinds of options. Not just regular classes.

  7. Chelsea Avatar

    Wow. This is great info. My parents and parents-in-law are right at retirement age and looking to learn something new, or even start another career path. They’ll enjoy this!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Awesome! I hope they find something they love!

  8. Alyssa Avatar

    Great information! With so many things changing towards technology I can definitely see why seniors would want to go back to school. Things are always evolving!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Absolutely! They can stay on top of this quickly changing world.

  9. Barbara Avatar

    Great information!

  10. Sandra Barrett Avatar
    Sandra Barrett

    It’s such a great way to learn about subjects that peak your curiosity. And … Free is for me!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Exactly! No required courses like when you are going for your degree.

  11. Suzan Avatar

    I have looked into a few courses at our local state college. Not quite eligible in age yet, but getting there.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Awesome! College classes for seniors are really becoming popular.

  12. Debbie Avatar

    I think this is great info for when things return to normal. I also learned that senior classes can start at 50 😳😂

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Yes they can! There is plenty of free classes for everyone.

  13. Keirsten Avatar

    This is such an important post. We never stop learning. I’m always encouraging my mom & grandparents to try new things including taking courses.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Awesome Keirsten! I am glad to see more seniors getting out there to learn!

  14. Tiffany Smith Avatar
    Tiffany Smith

    This is so cool! I will have to share with my aunts, they love learning!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Awesome! I hope they find senior classes they love!

  15. Marianne Avatar

    i totally agree that the social aspect is a great reason and motivator for seniors to return to school! I remember having several students in their golden years in my classes at university. One gentleman mentioned he didn’t have the time or money when he was young. But now the classes were free, and he had less responsibilities!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      That is a great example! I love when people put themselves out there and try to expand their knowledge!

  16. Holly Avatar

    WOW this is amazing! I would love to take some classes! I’m going to check this out! Thank you!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Awesome Holly! I would love to hear what senior classes you take!

  17. Shelby Avatar

    This is so cool! Learning should never stop, and so glad there are options for all ages!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I agree! Seniors interested in higher education have no reason not to go!

  18. Sydney Avatar

    Great tips! I can definitely see Seniors wanting to take some classes to learn new things

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      100%! It is a great way to satisfy finding your purpose in retirement!

  19. Sabrina DeWalt Avatar
    Sabrina DeWalt

    It’s good to know it’s not too late for school.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is never too late Sabrina! Seniors have a lot to contribute to the classes too!

  20. Bonnie Avatar

    Lifelong learning is great and it’s nice to see institutions offering free college courses for seniors.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      I agree! Seniors can really find their purpose when they return to the classroom.

  21. Kendra Avatar

    This is such a wonderful learning opportunity for seniors! I’m so thankful there are opportunities out there for free and discounted college and learning.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is really wonderful that the colleges have offered to let seniors in for free.

  22. kmf Avatar

    I’m always curious and believe in lifelong learning so this information about free college courses for seniors is perfect. Not quite a senior yet but looks like I could do a few…and auditing courses would definitely take the pressure off.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      There are plenty of free courses for younger people too! Coursera offers courses for any age.

  23. Julie Gazdecki Avatar
    Julie Gazdecki

    Hmmm, should I consider taking free college courses? This is tempting.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Many of them are self-paced. So you can take them at your leisure! Sign up!

  24. Alexis Farmer Avatar
    Alexis Farmer

    What an awesome opportunity! I had no idea seniors could get free college classes until now.

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      It is definitely a trend for this generation. It is a great way to stay connected and use that brain!

  25. Lisa Manderino Avatar
    Lisa Manderino

    Life long learning is great! It is never to late! Love seniors taking action and going back to college!

    1. Tricia Snow Avatar

      Exactly! And so good for your health when you take action!

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