Free and Discounted Online Education Resources for Seniors and Lifelong Learners

· Published: April 2020

A State-By-State report of free and
discounted tuition options.

Last Updated April 20th, 2020

Record numbers of older adults are opting to shift into different careers, whether working full time or only part time, and for those people as well as retired individuals who want to keep mentally sharp and learn new skills, many educational options are out there.

In some cases, college-level educational tools can be accessed from the comfort of your own home and with very little (or even no) cost. Here’s a look at the best educational options for older adults looking to start an “encore” career or simply expand their horizons.

Table of Contents

Traditional Institutions By State

Online Institutions

Tax Benefits

Traditional Institutions By State

Older adults who didn’t finish their undergraduate degrees, or didn’t start them, and those who are interested in college-level education in a new field should have many options regardless of where they live, and in most places, at least some of these options will be free or low-cost.

That’s because in all but one state, at least one public higher educational system provides free or reduced-tuition options for older adults who want to take college courses. We’ve compiled a state-by-state listing of the known policies that are in place, including which institutions they cover and how those interested can learn more.

Some but not all courses may be offered online, but that depends on the individual class. For the most part, course listings are posted well in advance, so it’s easy to find out which classes you can complete online, while a few of these institutions exclude all online courses from these programs, and those are included in our listings. Also, in each of these cases, while tuition costs may be eliminated or reduced, other fees, such as lab fees or technology fees, may still apply depending on the class.

Know of a free or cheap tuition policy for seniors that’s not covered here? Let us know! E-mail help@seniorliving.org

Alabama

  • Alabama Community College system: Free tuition for those 60 and older

Alaska

  • University of Alaska system: Free tuition for those old enough to draw their full Social Security benefit, as space is available

Arizona

  • Cochise College: Discounted tuition (50% discount in most recent publications) for those 60 and older
  • Coconino Community College: 25% reduction in tuition for up to six credit-hours for Arizona residents 65 and older
  • Mesa Community College: 50% tuition discount for Maricopa County residents 65 and older

Arkansas

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at all state-funded colleges, universities and community colleges for residents 60 and older, as space is available

California

  • California State University system: Free tuition and reduction in most fees for state residents over 60 as space is available

Colorado

  • Colorado State University: Residents 55 and older can audit courses for no tuition as space is available
  • University of Colorado Boulder: Residents 55 and older can audit courses for no tuition
  • University of Colorado Denver: Residents 60 and older can audit courses for no tuition as space is available
  • University of Northern Colorado: Residents 65 and older can audit courses for no tuition as space is available

Connecticut

  • State-supported institutions: Free or reduced-cost tuition at most state-funded colleges and universities, including the University of Connecticut system, regional state universities and most community colleges, for residents 62 and older

Delaware

  • Delaware Technical and Community College: Free tuition for residents 60 and older as space is available
  • University of Delaware: Free tuition for residents 60 and older as space is available

District of Columbia

  • University of the District of Columbia: Free tuition, limited to two courses per semester, for D.C. residents 65 and older auditing classes; 50% tuition for seniors pursuing degrees

Florida

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities for those 60 and older auditing courses as space is available

Georgia

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition for those 62 and older at publicly funded colleges and universities

Hawaii

  • University of Hawaii: Free tuition for residents 60 and older auditing courses

Idaho

  • College of Western Idaho: 50% tuition discount for residents 60 and older
  • Boise State University: Free tuition for residents 65 and older auditing courses
  • University of Idaho: Low-cost tuition for residents 60 and older

Illinois

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of Illinois system, regional state universities, Chicago State University, Governors State University and public community colleges, for residents 65 and older with income at or below 200% of federal poverty level

Indiana

  • State-supported institutions: 50% tuition discount at publicly funded colleges and universities, including the Indiana and Purdue systems, Ball State, Indiana State, the University of Southern Indiana and the Ivy Tech Community College system, for retired people 60 or older as space is available

Iowa

  • Des Moines Area Community College: Free tuition for residents 62 and older auditing one course per semester
  • Simpson College: Free tuition for residents 65 and older auditing one course per semester as space is available

Kansas

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of Kansas system, Kansas State, Wichita State, Emporia State, Fort Hays State and Pittsburg State, for residents 60 and older auditing courses as space is available

Kentucky

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of Kentucky system, University of Louisville, regional state universities, Murray State, More head State, Kentucky State and Kentucky community and technical college system, for residents 65 and older as space is available

Louisiana

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of Louisiana system and Nicholls University (excludes online-only enrollees), for residents 60 and older

Maine

  • University of Maine system: Free tuition for residents 65 and older, whether degree-seekers or auditing

Maryland

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges, universities and community colleges, including University of Maryland system, College of Southern Maryland system and most state community colleges, for residents 60 and older as space is available

Massachusetts

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of Massachusetts system, state community college system and state university system, for residents 60 and older

Michigan

  • Central Michigan University: Free tuition for residents 60 and older auditing courses as space is available
  • Kalamazoo Valley Community College: Free tuition for residents 62 and older as space is available
  • Michigan Tech: Free tuition for residents 60 and older for maximum of two courses per semester
  • Muskegon Community College: Free tuition for Muskegon County residents 60 and older as space is available
  • Northern Michigan University: Free tuition for residents 62 and older (online courses excluded)
  • Western Michigan University: Free tuition for residents 62 and older for maximum of one course per semester

Minnesota

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of Minnesota system, Minnesota State system and public community colleges, for residents 62 and older

Mississippi

  • Mississippi State Meridian and Starkville: Free tuition for residents 60 and older for six credit-hours per semester
  • University of Mississippi system: Free tuition for residents 65 and older for one course per semester

Missouri

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including the University of Missouri system, the regional state university system and the public community college system, for residents 65 and older

Montana

  • Flathead Valley Community College: Free tuition for in-district residents 65 and older
  • Montana State University system: Free tuition for residents 65 and older
  • University of Montana system: Free tuition for residents 65 and older

Nebraska

  • University of Nebraska system: Free tuition for residents 65 and older auditing maximum of two undergraduate courses per semester as space is available

Nevada

  • Research indicates no college or university programs giving seniors access to college courses for free or discounted tuition are ongoing in Nevada, as the University of Nevada system’s senior citizen tuition program was suspended in 2011.

New Hampshire

  • Community College System of New Hampshire: 50% tuition discount for residents 65 and older
  • University of New Hampshire system: Free tuition for residents 65 and older for maximum of two courses per semester as space is available

New Jersey

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including The College of New Jersey, Montclair State, Rutgers University and William Paterson University, for residents 65 and older (usually, though ages may vary by institution) as space is available

New Mexico

  • State-supported institutions: Discounted tuition of $5 per credit-hour at publicly funded colleges and universities, including the University of New Mexico system, the regional community college system and the New Mexico State University system, for residents 65 and older

New York

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including state and city university systems, for residents 60 and older auditing courses as space is available

North Carolina

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including the University of North Carolina system and the state’s community college system, for residents 65 and older auditing courses as space is available

North Dakota

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of North Dakota system, state university system and community college system, for residents 65 and older auditing courses (on-campus only)

Ohio

  • Kent State University: Free tuition for residents 60 and older
  • Lorain County Community College: Free tuition for residents 60 and older
  • The Ohio State University system: Free tuition for residents 60 and older auditing courses as space is available
  • University of Akron: Free tuition for residents 60 and older auditing courses as space is available with maximum of 11 credits per term

Oklahoma

  • Tulsa Community College: Free tuition for residents 65 and older auditing courses as space is available

Oregon

  • Community college system: Free tuition for residents 65 and older auditing courses with maximum of eight credits per term
  • University of Oregon system: Free tuition for residents 65 and older auditing courses as space is available

Pennsylvania

  • California University of Pennsylvania: Free tuition for residents 60 and older auditing courses or earning credit with maximum of 18 credits per semester<br> Clarion University: Free tuition for residents 62 and older auditing courses as space is available
  • East Stroudsburg University: Free tuition for retired residents 60 and older auditing courses with maximum of six credits per semester as space is available
  • Northampton Community College: Free tuition for Northampton County residents 65 and older
  • Penn State University system: Free tuition for retired residents 60 and older as space is available
  • Shippensburg University: Free tuition for residents 60 and older auditing courses or earning credit as space is available
  • West Chester University: Free tuition for retired residents 60 and older auditing courses or earning credit as space is available

Rhode Island

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and community college system, for residents 60 and older

South Carolina

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including the University of South Carolina system, Clemson University, the state university system and community and technical colleges, for residents 60 and older as space is available

South Dakota

  • State-supported institutions: 45% tuition discount at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of South Dakota, state university system and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, for residents 65 and older

Tennessee

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of Tennessee system, regional state university system, Austin Peay State University and University of Memphis, for retired residents 60 and older as space is available

Texas

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of Texas system, state college system, University of Houston system, Texas A&M University and community and technical college system, for residents 65 and older with maximum of six hours per semester as space is available

Utah

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including University of Utah system, regional state university system, Snow College and Weber State University, for residents 62 and older auditing courses as space is available

Vermont

  • State colleges system: 50% tuition discount at system institutions, including Castleton University, Community College of Vermont, Vermont Tech and Northern Vermont University, for residents 60 and older

Virginia

  • State-supported institutions: Free tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia system, James Madison University, George Mason University, the state community college system and the state university system, for residents 60 and older auditing courses and for credit for those earning less than $23,850 per year.

Washington

  • State-supported institutions: Free or reduced tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including the University of Washington system, the state’s regional university system, Washington State University and the public community college system, for residents 60 and older

West Virginia

  • State-supported institutions: Reduced tuition at publicly funded colleges and universities, including West Virginia University system, regional state university system, Marshall University and state community and technical college system, for residents 65 and older as space is available

Wisconsin

  • University of Wisconsin system: Free tuition for residents 60 and older auditing courses as space is available

Wyoming

  • University of Wyoming system: Free tuition for residents 65 and older as space is available

Online Institutions

Many of the colleges and universities that offer free or discounted tuition for credit-seekers and those simply auditing courses do provide some classes online, but that depends largely on the individual course. But for all college students, whether they’re the traditional college-age or not, instruction has been moving online for some time, even before the coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, about one-third of all university students take at least one class online, and this number has been climbing for several years now. But online education isn’t only the purview of traditional higher education institutions, and chances are that no matter what your interests, someone out there is offering an online course devoted to it.

While platforms like Udemy, Coursera and Skillshare, which are some of the most popular online course providers in the world, generally don’t offer certificates or degrees for free and we did not find any that provide free certificates or graded learning for senior citizens, in many cases, it’s free to audit courses.

These platforms are designed to be easy for all users, so assuming you have access to an internet-connected device and a bit of free time, with just a few taps, you could be taking a University of Pennsylvania course on ancient Egypt, learning how to become a published author or, for the very ambitious people out there, writing computer code for a video game.

Most of the major platforms do offer some of their courses for free, while others include fees and tuition that depends on the site and the course. Here are some of the best options to explore — Skillshare, Udemy, Coursera and edX.

Tax Benefits

A couple of tax benefits could help you offset the cost of tuition, fees and other expenses in some cases, though it’s wise to consult your accountant or tax professional to be sure you’re getting the best deal, since you won’t be able to double-dip with any of these credits or deductions.

Lifetime Learning Credit

  • Provides up to $2,000 in tax benefits per year for costs related to qualified tuition or fees like books, supplies and other mandatory costs. Qualified institutions include those that offer undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees, though it may not be necessary to take courses for credit provided that the class is intended to improve job skills.
  • Phases out for earners with adjusted incomes over $68,000 (or $136,000 for joint filers).

Tuition and Fees Deduction

  • Provides a tax benefit up to $4,000 related to tuition and fees excluding living expenses like room and board for attending an institution of higher learning.
  • Income limit for this deduction is $80,000 for single filers and $160,000 for married couples filing a joint return.

American Opportunity Tax Credit

  • Tougher for most late-in-life learners to qualify for, but it provides a tax benefit for up to $2,000 for expenses incurred for the first four years of higher education, which could apply for older adults who never started or didn’t finish their undergrad degrees.
  • Income limit for the credit is $90,000 for individuals and $180,000 for couples.

Share Your Story

Are you a newly retired person who earned a degree or challenged yourself to learn a new skill by going back to college or taking classes online? Tell us how it went and provide tips for your fellow lifelong learners here.