Age is no barrier to going back to college — even if you’re over 50. But if you’re considering taking a college course in your later years, you might think that money is a major hurdle. After all, school doesn’t come cheap. But here’s the good news — it’s possible to go to college for free after 50go to college for free after 50.
Colleges and universities across the country offer free or reduced tuition for senior learners in their 50s and 60s. Getting free education means being able to fulfill your learning goals without the burden of student loans or dipping into your savings. Even if you’re retired and only want to keep your mind active, you can enjoy classroom or online college courses for free.
If you’re thinking of going back to university at 50, this article is for you. Learn how to find schools near you where you don’t have to pay a dime for tuition. You’ll also find out about reduced-fee college programs. You may be surprised that going to college affordable if you’re over 50.
How Can You Go to College for Free After 50?
There’s no catch to getting free college or university learning after 50. Many public colleges and universities offer over-50s waivers to take “for-credit” courses. Additionally, you could audit a college class for free. Even though you don’t earn credits auditing a class, you still get valuable free learning.
How does free college tuition for the over-50s work? Much depends on the university or college you plan to attend.
Here are a few ways how some colleges offer how free tuition:
- You could apply to audit college or university courses tuition-free.
- Some schools waive tuition and fees for senior citizens if there are vacancies in a class.
- Many states encourage colleges to offer tuition at discounted rates.
There are a few things to keep in mind when looking to go to college for free after 50. First, you may need to pay for books or other course material. Additionally, some colleges charge an application fee to enroll in classes. Typically, auditing classes doesn’t earn you any credits toward education.
Why Go Back to University At 50?
There are plenty of reasons to return to college if you’re age 50 and over. Enrolling in college courses, getting a degree, or getting a master’s are fantastic ways to boost your employment chances. You might be able to change careers, improve your promotion prospects, or make yourself more competitive among your peers. For many older people, going back to school after 50 is normal.
What’s on Offer for Free College Courses for Over-50s?
The chances to go to college for free after 50 varies from state to state. If you’re interested in going back to university at 50 and not paying anything, here are examples of what’s on offer around the country.
Free “for-credit” courses
Many state-supported colleges and community colleges waive fees if you’re over 60. Generally, free college courses are on a space-available basis. This means you may have to wait until all paying students have been accepted. If there are spaces available, the college may offer these for free to eligible lifelong learners.
Depending on the university, there may be certain restrictions on applying. Here are a few examples:
- Some colleges restrict free courses to specific programs. For example, courses that involve lab work, computer studies, or specialized equipment may be exempt.
- Restrictions could mean that you can only attend a certain number of courses per semester.
- Most — but not all — colleges require free students to pay application fees. You may also be liable for the cost of course material and other related supplies.
- In some cases, the perks paying students enjoy are not available to older learners getting free courses.
- In addition to an application fee, you may have to pay a fee per hour credit. This can range from $1 to over $300 per hour credit.
Each state college has its own terms and conditions for over 50s taking classes for free. So, you should contact your local public college or university to find out their requirements. But some people over 50 have been able to complete a degree thanks to free or discounted college courses.
Related reading: Quick and easy scholarships for non-traditional students.
Audit classes to attend college if you’re over 50
Auditing a class means attending lectures and working through the course materials. But if you audit a class, you don’t need to do homework, sit exams, or even participate. Of course, auditing a college course doesn’t result in an assessment. Basically, you get the education to want without a certificate to prove it.
It’s good to remember that spaces for auditing courses are usually limited. Suppose there are programs on offer for senior learners at your local state college. In that case, you must apply to attend as soon as possible.
However, auditing a college class is an extremely popular way for lifelong learners in their 50s and 60s to advance their education for free.
Other Cheap and Free Ways of Going to College After 50
Many colleges across the country provide free or reduced-rate courses for folks over 50. It may be possible to enroll in programs that last from six to eight weeks. Or, for an annual fee, some colleges allow retirees to attend all classes in a semester.
Over 120 universities and colleges offer education programs through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). The cost of enrollment varies from school to school. However, adults aged 50 and over can attend non-credit courses on a wide range of topics. OLLI classes provide an enriched classroom experience for seniors.
Generally, courses for lifelong learners include an annual membership fee. Depending on the college and course, there may also be a cost to attend class. However, you can get a quality education at a fraction of the typical cost of attending college.
Going to College for Free After 50: In Conclusion
There are tremendous learning opportunities if you are aged 50 and over. Many colleges allow senior learners to audit classes. This college experience can enrich your knowledge and expand your horizons in later life. You may also find free or discounted college courses where you can earn credit toward a degree.