Free Senior Citizen Education (How To Go To School For Free)
Seniors or older individuals that would like to pursue further education can actually get free education in the form of free tuition, or through grants and scholarships. Older individuals who are pursuing college education are sometimes referred to as non traditional students.
This article will explain how senior citizens and non traditional students can go to school for free.
Tuition Waivers – Go to College for Free as a Senior
A tuition waiver is either free, or greatly reduced tuition costs which are commonly available to seniors and older individuals looking to go back to college or university. Over 60% of educational institutions offer free tuition called tuition waivers, and 20 states have mandated tuition waivers for seniors at public colleges and universities. It might seem to good to be true, but this is not the case as many colleges offer tuition waivers.
Schools that do not have tuition waivers, will still most likely offer large discounts on tuition costs. The only issue you can run into is space availability. Many colleges and universities only offer the tuition waivers based on the amount of open spaces available in the program. Many courses will favour the paying students first, and you could only be eligible for the tuition waiver if there is enough space available in the course.
The following states offer state wide, mandated tuition waivers at public colleges: 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 D.C.
Also, it can be difficult to locate the programs that offer this, so some research is required. There is no national program or government database that displays all the colleges and universities that offer the free tuition.
A great resource state by state resource, that displays the colleges offering programs for senior citizens can be found at seniorresource.com. Keep in mind, not all the courses listed on this resource will offer free tuition, however it is still a good starting point to begin your search. Below are more steps you can take to find free tuition in your area:
- contact the registrar and financial aid offices of colleges and universities in your area, and ask if they offer tuition waivers for older individuals
- explore the official websites of the schools you have interest in, and search for the courses you are interested in to see if they privilege students who pay tuition, which might limit course availability for non traditional students.
It is important to note that you will still be responsible to pay for textbooks, as well as administration fees etc.
Retired seniors will have to meet certain requirements based on the college they are attending that usually include:
- usually have to be 60 years of age or older, but can range anywhere from 50 to 65 years of age
- residency, must live within a certain vicinity of the college
- income limits (some schools have limit of $15000 or less)
- proof of high school diploma
- documentation of retirement
Availability of courses depends on a few factors such as
- space availability
- permission from the professor is sometimes required
- could be limited to credit bearing courses for some colleges, however some non credit bearing courses will qualify as well
Many seniors can feel intimidated going back to school with a classroom full of younger students. If this is you, rest assured colleges as many colleges offer online courses for individuals aged 50 or older, if they live in the same state as the college. This is ideal for seniors, as they do not have to worry about transportation to and from the college, as this can be a huge challenge for many.
Free Computer Education (Get Basic Computer Skill Training for Free)
The non profit organization Senior Net, provides older adults and seniors education, and courses on computer technologies. Senior Net has an educational website, as well as learning centers throughout the United States. Some of the things that seniors will learn to do include:
- upload and edit photos
- send and receive photos and documents as attachments through emails
- log on to online banking to manage their finances
- learn how to create documents
- learn how to communicate with others with the internet
To join this program it is a small fee of $44, which gains you access and privileges to all of the resources Senior Net has to offer. If you are interested and would like to learn more about this program visit seniornet.org.
Educational Grants For Seniors (Get Education Grants for School)
If the college you want to attend does not offer tuition waivers, you can still be eligible for free education through grants (see our separate article detailing more grants for senior citizens & elderly persons). Note that as a senior citizen, you likely can attend many colleges and universities for free BUT should this not be an option, you can look at scholarships and grants to help pay for your education as well.
There are a wide variety of grants available, with some designed specifically for seniors. There are a few government grant databases to help you located grants in your area as displayed below:
- Grants.gov: this website is the best federal online database to find and apply for grants, as it has thousands of different grants.
A Pell Grant is a need based grant which grants low income individuals money to use to pursue college or university education. Pell grants are available to individuals who are striving toward their first bachelor’s or professional degree. There are no age restrictions to apply for Pell Grants, making it ideal for seniors and older individuals to apply for.
Furthermore, a national study on postsecondary education showed that non traditional students (older individuals) are more likely to receive a Pell Grant then traditional students.
You can apply for a Pell Grant three different ways:
- You can apply online with the Department of Education’s website at ed.gov
- You can apply by downloading and completing the PDF version which can be found at the above website
- You can apply by completing a paper version of the application which is mailed to you when call the Department of Education’s toll free number.
Scholarships for Seniors
If you are hoping to take a course at a college that does not offer free tuition, you can apply for special scholarships that are designed specially for seniors. These scholarships can come from a number of different sources including the college or university, non profit organization, as well as businesses.
Many of the scholarships do not have an age limit, allowing seniors to apply if they meet all the requirements. A great example of this is a need based scholarship, which you can attempt to qualify for by doing the following:
- complete a FAFSA application (Free Application For Federal Student Aid)
- prove that you need financial assistance based on your income and age
Seniors can also apply for independent scholarships that are designed just for seniors. A great example of this is the Edward M.Kennedy Serve America Act, which awards $1000 scholarships to seniors aged 55 and older.
Scholarship databases: there are several scholarship databases available which allow you to easily narrow your search for potential scholarships that are waiting to be awarded based on your location, age and academic ability. Some of the more popular scholarship databases include:
- com: this database includes 50 scholarships for age restrictions 30 years and older, 230 scholarships for ages 25 and older, and over 1800 scholarships that do not have any age restrictions at all
- com: allows you to search by age and location
- com: allows you to search for a wide variety of scholarship based on age and location
If you do not know where to start, using one of these databases is a good starting point. You can explore these websites as there are literally thousands of scholarships that can be found.
In addition, contact the financial aid of your college of interest and ask about scholarships they might have that are specifically for senior citizens, older individuals, or non traditional students.
Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)
This program is offered by the The AARP Foundation, which is a non profit organization that provides help in a wide range of areas for individuals aged 50 and older. The AARP offers a few programs that offer free educational assistance.
The Senior Community Service Employment Program offers paid job training for individuals aged 55 or older. The training allows the participants to earn money while they are developing new skills to further compete in the job market. Through this program the participants will:
- receive up to 20 hours per week of paid training and work experience
- learn valuable skills and experience
- training takes place in various locations such as hospitals, office, and community centers
To qualify for this program you must meet the following:
- be aged 55 or older
- be unemployed
- earn low income
In order to apply for this program, contact a local SCSEP site near you.