Fall will be here before you know it, and with it the return of those bright yellow school buses and kids crunching through autumn leaves. Most of us said goodbye to those back-to-school days a long time ago; but for those of us over 55, doctors see a real upside in considering a return to academic learning. Not only does the senior brain benefit from overall memory stimulation and problem solving, it experiences meaningful neuron regeneration when it’s nudged into unchartered territory – whether through changing up our usual route to the supermarket, switching up the daily crossword for Sudoku, or enrolling in a college course!
Now we all know the cost of higher education can be steep – but that isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to seniors and what they’re asked to pay. The fact is that a large number of colleges and universities across the country offer free or significantly reduced classes for senior citizens who qualify. These requirements vary, but typically include the following:
- Age requirement: usually you must be 60 or older
- Proof of US residency
- Proof of retirement
- Income restrictions to access tuition waivers or other discounts
- Proof of high school diploma
While some schools require seniors to audit classes (more on that later), there are many offering full college credit for courses completed.
In terms of finding discounts available, there are lots of online resources to consult. Here are some good ones to look at:
- The Pennyhoarder site has found deals for seniors at schools in every state in the US, listed alphabetically on their website.
- SeniorResource and A Senior Citizen Guide for College are two other excellent resources that lists discounted education programs for seniors state-by-state.
- The Bernard Osher Foundation funds more than 100 learning programs for attendees 50 and over at higher education institutions across the country.
- Consumer Reports has lots of helpful information on their website to help seniors navigate the array of discounts available.
- Ready for the IRS to pay you for a change? They offer a lifelong tax credit of $10,000 towards higher education. Details and requirements can be found on their website.
If for some reason you don’t qualify for tuition waivers or discounts and don’t mind foregoing college credit, choosing to audit classes is an option to consider. Auditing costs you nothing, and can actually be a great way to learn and get exposed to the academic environment without the stress of homework or exams!
Alternatively, you might also want to look into enrolling in Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCS, most of which are also free. The most popular sites for enrolling include Coursera, Udacity, and edX. There’s no obligation to complete any course you might want to try, and no commitment necessary to complete any work assignments.
Sound intriguing? Give it a try, and let us know what you think in comments!