By Jennifer W. Eisenberg

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Senior workers are defined as post-55 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Senior citizens receive many discounts, and many institutions of higher learning and even entire states have programs to subsidize the cost of a senior wanting to return to school.

Seniors can expect a number of benefits including the possibility of free online college, the value of which varies on a program to program basis. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which is located at many colleges and universities, and various state programs allow seniors to attend or audit two or four-year schools.  There is also a variety of websites that offer certifications and coursework on many topics that are available for seniors at free or greatly reduced cost.

What Are the Benefits of Returning to College as a Senior?

Benefits include cognitive sharpness, socialization, personal goals, as well as sharing experience and knowledge to contribute to others.

Further, with cognitive emphasis includes technical skills that may best be learned in an academic online setting.

As of this writing you may be considering an alternate career path. You are not alone. Across-the-board growth in the elder workforce is expected

Why Choose to Get Your College Degree Online?

Your costs will certainly be reduced in terms of travel, commute, or, especially, relocation. None of these are necessary when studying online.

 Not everyone of the conventional retirement age currently gets online. Those that do tend to do it all the time. It’s only fair to self-assess your level of comfort with this type of learning. For instance: are you among the regular visitors online? Reading this article implies that that is the case, but if you are not actually that accustomed to virtual life you aren’t destined to remain that way.

Speaking anecdotally, we know a number of folks nearing 80 that were not early adopters of anything but grew to accustom themselves to get access to what they loved most: newspapers, in particular, are so much more widely available in digital form. You may take advantage of your local library to make your time more social.

Among the benefits also includes your ability to apply your personal experience to count toward academic credit. This has grown more popular among students with perhaps unconventional paths to college.

Certainly you may be among those most comfortable with online learning. If you are able to at least overcome the discomfort the freedom to socialize online can be downright liberating. Online, you will be part of synchronous chatroom-like real-time interaction and also have available to you an asynchronous posting bulletin board-like archive where you can respond to other student and teacher posts. The latter provides an archive that relates directly to what you and your fellow students are studying. Further benefit for the post-55 crowd is the 24/7 availability and other elements that make online study suit your schedule as you choose. Not having to drive to your school eliminates any distance or transportation concerns.

Recent advances and popularization of Zoom technology may make it even more appealing to you, as the process is now easier to access and the bandwidth available for such offerings has increased so much.

How Can You Enroll in Online College?

You will have much less to worry about regarding any tests or personal statements. You merely need to meet the age requirement of 60 or so, be a US citizen, and have a high school diploma. Other benefits or waivers or  get other financial consideration, you can look at each institution for the particular requirements and expectations

Free Online College Courses for Senior Citizens – Scholarships, Discounts, and Waivers

Dozens of states have jumped on the bandwagon of offering free or discounted higher education for seniors either on an auditing basis or for credit. Many restrictions and stipulations apply and the definition of “older” varies widely from state to state and is generally available only to legal residents of that state from some, but often not all, of the public higher education facilities existing there.

Aid Specifically for Seniors

Documenting the growth of “encore educations” — Georgia and Florida and California, among other states, make a greater and greater percentage of senior tuition waived for qualifying legal residents of their states. These are almost on a space available basis, so no priority will be granted for registration in these cases. Indeed, in some programs, applicants inthis class are last on this list, priority wise. That said, free or discounted tuition is a great deal better than full price college, so waste not, want not.

Traditional College Resources

Should you wish to pursue an online education in a state that you do not reside in, there are still the usual list of resources avaulable, namely, federal aid that can be accessed through the FAFSA, or, free application for federal student aid and private scholarships, some of which are aimed at your demographic.

The Best Online Universities for Senior Citizens

Many states have undertaken to reacquaint older students with all that the educational process has to offer. Some offer discounted tuition or a waiver of fees entirely, some are just constructed with an eye towards the needs of a nontraditional student. This list is by no means an exhaustive resource for the services available for this population. Indeed, it barely scratches the surface. What you need to know is that most of these programs are only available for residents of the states these universities are located in, so you need to see what your particular state of residence has to offer your demographic.


Below are twenty schools that either on their own or as part of a state initiative offer incentives for seniors to re-enter the educational process or are just a really good value, education wise, offering in demand degrees and fair prices, with the non-traditional student in mind. Since senior friendliness is a hard category to quantify, we selected a variety of schools with a variety of policies and presented them here in no ranking order. This is meant as a representative sample of the programs available for seniors, only.

20 Online College The Offer Senior Discounts