Going back to college as a senior citizen or pursuing an “encore education” can be a path to a career change, a chance to obtain a degree, or simply a way to keep on learning. Read on to explore colleges and universities that welcome older students—and learn about free online courses, grants, and scholarships that can help senior citizens go back to school without breaking the bank.
9 Colleges for Going Back to College as a Senior Citizen
We’re living longer, and in better health, than ever before—and more and more top colleges and universities are recognizing the demand for educational and intellectual stimulation for adults who are beyond the traditional university years. Whether you want to pursue a degree or just enhance your knowledge about a particular subject, any of these schools could be a great place to start.
#1: Ashford University
Accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, Ashford provides accessible, affordable, high-quality learning opportunities and degree programs for students with diverse needs. The school’s innovative online experience provides senior citizens with a new way of learning, through which they can work toward an Associate, Bachelor, or Master’s degree from home. Ashford’s mobile app lets students keep in touch with courses and classmates across the country and the world. Programs at Ashford of special interest to seniors include history, health and wellness, entrepreneurship, and psychology, including:
Through online coursework that includes nutrition, health program planning, and community health, seniors can learn how to develop personal fitness programs and contribute to their community as healthcare professionals.
Seniors can put their interests in world history to good use by studying the powerful tides of globalization and cultural conflict. Ashford’s history degree offers students an intellectual toolkit for addressing complex global issues.
#2: George Mason University
The online programs at George Mason University have been carefully thought out to give students the best possible education without visiting the classroom, while maintaining the same rigor and level of interaction as traditional or on-campus programs. Continuing education programs for senior citizens are available, as are enrichment courses through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
George Mason University is known for its strong academic programs in business, science, creative writing, economics and law, as well as programs such as:
Older students can work toward earning confidence and credentials to start a business, or assume a leadership role. Courses are available completely online with a variety of electives to explore the breadth of business and leadership.
One of the few online programs in the country accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), this program explores the intersection of healthcare, technology, and data science. Students work to become prepared to enter an emerging job market with an in-depth understanding of healthcare systems.
#3: Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University is a private, not-for-profit school affiliated with the Wesleyan Church, so it’s designed to support student’s journeys both academically and spiritually. Senior students at IWU can work toward obtaining a degree in 12 to 15 hours per week, allowing them to work at their pace and in the learning style that’s best for them.
IWU offers programs for seniors in nursing, psychology, theology, and business, such as:
With courses taught by faculty members who are experienced professionals, students receive rigorous training in medical theory, critical thinking, assessment, and evidence-based practice that they can put to work in hospitals and primary care settings.
This 30 credit-hour graduate program can help students learn to integrate knowledge of ethical accounting standards and practices in performing forensic accounting and auditing, tax preparation, and advisory services.
#4: Georgetown University
Perennially ranked among the nation’s most prestigious universities, Georgetown’s online programs carry on the 200+ tradition for education excellence while offering convenient distance learning options. Senior citizens 65 and up may audit undergraduate courses for just a $50 fee under the school’s Senior Citizen Non-Degree Auditor Program.
The opportunities for online study at Georgetown University include:
Through coursework that includes real-world applications, a global outlook, and a commitment to ethical values, the MS in Finance strives to teach the ability to value stocks, bonds, and derivatives, as well as the ability to construct an efficient portfolio using the latest techniques for estimating expected returns and risks.
Through live online classes, hands-on clinical experiences, and a curriculum grounded in evidence-based practice, this program develops nurses who can step into leadership roles as advocates for socially just health policy. Courses are designed to empower licensed Registered Nurses to practice at the highest level of clinical care.
#5: University of Delaware
Backed by a 250+ year history of academic achievement, The University of Delaware offers an online curriculum that focuses on cutting-edge research, video lectures, interactive assignments, and collaboration. Most importantly, residents of Delaware who are age 60 or older may be able to attend college tuition free on a space-available basis.
The University of Delaware offers many online courses of study of interest to senior citizens, including:
Older students are empowered to reenter the educational field with advanced experience in classroom management and improving student outcomes. This program focuses on providing the proven theory, current tools, and available skills necessary to educate students, lead peers, and rise to the challenges of the modern classroom.
Learn from active practitioners with strong corporate and military experience in current issues and trends in cybersecurity. Gain advanced instruction on the design of secure software and systems that address critical cybersecurity issues touching every part of our world.
#6: American University
In addition to seven distinct schools renowned for their academic excellence, public service, and political impact, AU offers a variety of online courses and graduate programs that empower senior citizens and other adult learners to tap into a multidisciplinary curriculum and academic support network from the comfort of home.
Online graduate degrees available through American University include:
Few things are more important to senior citizens than ensuring a long, healthy life through proper nutrition. AU’s online degree program in this area helps put seniors in position to guide their peers in the design and planning of a proper diet using foods that are affordable and readily available.
AU’s Blackboard platform lets students learn in real time from professors who are experts in the field. Under this guidance of award-winning faculty, students will learn how to empower others to make a lasting, positive impact on their communities.
#7: Bradley University
Bradley University strives to educate students in a useful and ethical way, using innovation to drive people to better their communities, with core values of collaborative and experiential learning, diversity, and service.
Bradley’s online programs use technology to the advantage of older students, employing a flexible model with 24/7 access. All courses encourage students and faculty to discuss, debate, and work together in real time from wherever they are.
The online courses at Bradley University focus on a suite of Nursing and Counseling programs, such as:
The increasing shortage of family medicine doctors in the U.S. is driving demand for advanced nurses—making Bradley’s Graduate Certificate Program an excellent choice for those who want to broaden their scope of practice within the field. This 100% online and ACEN-accredited FNP Certificate program allows senior citizens to pursue this career that the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects to grow 31% from 2016 to 2026 without putting their lives on hold.i
With a focus on preparing students to work in academic settings in roles such as a guidance counselor or college advisor, this program helps students expand their knowledge of counseling theory and practice while also exploring the groundbreaking field of neurocounseling: a movement that examines the connection between brain function and behavior.
#8: Johns Hopkins University
This world-class university provides online courses with state-of-the-art instruction in a variety of disciplines of special interest to senior citizens. Both master’s degrees and post bachelor’s certificates are offered.
For the senior citizen who has a broad scope of ongoing interests Johns Hopkins offers online study in fields as wide ranging as science writing, applied economics, environmental science, biotechnology, and nonprofit management.
This fully accredited online graduate program is designed to sharpen students’ analytical and management skills, whether they hope to gain a greater understanding of an important and vibrant sector with which they frequently interact.
Through a flexible, part-time program of online classes and face-to-face residencies, students can the journalism, writing, and multimedia skills needed to explore and explain how our natural world works.
#9: Widener University
Widener’s goal is to prepare students with the professional knowledge and drive to become leaders in their chosen field. The school’s advanced online degrees challenge students of all ages to connect curricula to current issues in today’s global society.
Widener offers degrees in business administration, nursing, and social work in a flexible, innovative format.
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing
This generation of senior citizens—the largest in U.S. history—knows the importance of good medical care firsthand. An online degree in nursing from Widener can give seniors access to opportunities to help care for their peers in local hospitals, nursing homes, or one-on-one as a home healthcare assistant.
This course of study prepares social workers to be seen, heard, and known throughout their community, and provides personal support for the Licensed Social Worker (LSW) exam. Courses are designed to give students a greater understanding of how trauma impacts mental health, leading to substance abuse and other social-emotional issues that affect quality of life.
Did You Know?
People aged 65 and older currently make up a little more than 13 percent of the U.S. population—and by 2020, nearly one in five college and graduate students are expected to be over the age of 35. Many people just like you are opting to go back to school for personal enrichment or to work towards a degree.
5 Things You Need to Know About Returning to College as a Senior Citizen
Going back to school is like riding a bike – no matter what your age, it always comes back naturally to you. But first, you have to prepare to be a student again. Here are some tips that can help you get started.
#1: How to Apply for Online College as a Senior Citizen
Good news! The college application process for senior citizens is much easier than it is for younger students. You don’t need test scores, like the SAT, ACT, GRE, or PERT, and you generally don’t have to complete an entrance essay. Different states and institutions will have their own requirements, but they generally include:
- You must be at least 60 or older.
- You must be a citizen of the United States.
- You will need to have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent.
- To qualify for certain waivers and discounts, you will need to meet income requirements.
#2: Finding a College for Senior Citizens
If you’re retired but pursuing a degree because you still want to work, be sure to find out what degree or training that job requires. Use the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook to decide what level of degree you need and what field of study you should pursue. Narrow your list of schools to those that match your educational requirements.
You can then go to those schools’ websites for more information, or reach out to them by phone or email to reach a knowledgeable staff member who can answer any questions you might have.
#3: Tuition Waivers for Senior Citizens
Sixty percent of accredited degree-granting educational institutions in the U.S. offer tuition waivers for older adults, according to a 2008 survey by the American Council on Education. And even schools that don’t have tuition waivers may offer special discounts to senior citizens or let seniors attend classes free.
Tuition waivers often depend on space availability and sometimes require permission from the instructor. They may be restricted to credit-bearing courses at some schools, while at others, only noncredit courses qualify. Some states have an income cap for eligible participants and require proof of state residency, documentation of retirement, and a high school diploma.
Because these programs are not well-publicized, you may have to dig a little to find the correct information. Search on the sites for terms like “lifelong learning,” “tuition waiver” and “mature students” or check your state’s policies.
#4: College Grants and Scholarships for Senior Citizens
As a senior, you may be eligible for state, university, private scholarships and grants and discount programs. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a great place to start determining your eligibility for financial aid assistance from state and federal sources.
In addition, a variety of different scholarships are offered exclusively to seniors from state governments and individual universities. These so-called “Encore Programs” are characteristically offered at moderate or no-cost but you should still check with each individual program for specific costs.
#5: Keep Learning to Help Keep Your Brain Healthy
When we learn something new, our brains may actually grow new cells and build new connections. This is particularly important for senior citizens, as learning may help support cognitive health, and stave off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
On top of that, here are a few of other benefits of going back to school for people in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and beyond:
- Better job prospects
- Social engagement
- New skills for part-time opportunities post retirement
- Personal growth
- Improved computer skills
Find the Perfect College for Going Back to School
Going back to school can help keep your mind healthy and open the door to new opportunities. Click on any of the sponsored listings on this page for more information—and get started today on the next chapter of your life.