Studying During Retirement: 50+ Colleges That Offer Discounts for Seniors

McDonald’s and Denny’s aren’t the only places retirement-aged Americans can land senior discounts. Many retirees are unaware that they can access free or affordable college education options in their state.

Kiplinger set out to change that, highlighting the schools in each state that offer free or heavily discounted higher education for people of retirement age.

Ready to learn a new subject during retirement?

Note: Free and discounted tuition is subject to change. Contact your institution of choice to verify their current senior offerings.


Two older men studying.
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Before you get too excited about earning a college degree during retirement, keep this in mind: Many degrees are audit only. In layperson’s terms, that means you won’t receive real college credit. Nevertheless, with studies showing cognitive benefits for older people who learn new skills, going to college during retirement might very well be worth it.


Alabama highway over low country.
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The Alabama Community College System invites Alabamans 60 years and older to apply for free tuition at their 2-year community and technical colleges. Kiplinger notes this means seniors have over 20 institutions to choose from, plus Alabama University at Montgomery, which also provides free college education to certain seniors.


Deer in Alaska mountains.
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Are you at least 65 years old and an Alaskan resident? If so, you’re in luck. Through the University of Alaska Board of Regents, you might qualify for free tuition. There’s a catch, though. Unpaid spaces must be available in a class for you to join.


Arizona canyon.
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If you want a fully funded education in your golden years, plan ahead and move out of Arizona now. But many college campuses in Arizona still offer a sweet education deal compared to younger students, with Maricopa (County) Community Colleges providing qualified applicants a 50% discount. Alternatively, head to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, where semester membership fees cost no more than a restaurant dinner.


Arkansas hiker on cliff overlooking mountains.
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The Natural State makes it easy for its residents 60 years and older to gain a college education. All for-credit courses with available spaces are offered free of charge at every state-supported school, including community colleges.


California coast.
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You’ve spent your career paying taxes to California; now it’s the Golden State’s turn to return the love. All state-supported colleges offer tuition waivers for residents 60 years and older. On top of that, you won’t have to pay an application fee or class activity fees.


Colorado mountain backroad.
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Colorado is generous with its senior education offer, as residents can apply to the Colorado State University’s Lifetime Learner program when they turn 55 years old. The classes are free, but you’ll have to keep your fingers crossed that they have space available to be accepted. The University of Colorado Denver also allows seniors 60 years and up to audit classes at no charge.


Connecticut lighthouse on rocky coastline.
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Sixty-two is the magic number for Connecticuters to start taking advantage of free tuition at state colleges and universities. While there are rules around it, you might be able to apply your credits towards a real degree. A second career, anyone?


Trees on river's edge in Delaware.
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Delaware residents should keep their fingers and toes crossed that not a lot of tuition-paying students sign up for the courses they want to take. If that’s the case at Delaware State University, the University of Delaware, or Delaware Technical and Community College, seniors 60 years and older will receive free tuition and pay no fees.

Washington, DC

Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
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The District of Columbia might not be a state, but it has its own set of education perks for seniors who reside within it. Those at least 65 years old can take up to two courses each semester free of charge at the University of the District of Columbia. Even private Georgetown University offers discounts to seniors who want to sit in on undergraduate-level courses.


Clearwater, Florida.
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Regardless of your opinion of Florida’s laws, this law will likely leave many seniors excited: state universities must waive tuition and fees for Floridians 60 years and older. Like many states, one’s ability to participate depends on whether there are extra seats in a class after all paying students have enrolled.


Live oak trees in Savannah, Georgia.
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The Peach State follows the lead of its southern neighbor, with free college education at public schools for seniors being part of the law. It’s a pretty straightforward process, with you being at least 62 years old and a Georgia resident being the main criteria.


Aerial view of Hawaiian island coastline with mountains.
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Who needs the word “senior” when you can be an “honored ancestor?” That’s about what the Nā Kūpuna Program translates to in English, which allows Hawaiians 60 years and older to take free classes at state community colleges and the University of Hawaii.


Winter in Wallace, Idaho.
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Idaho doesn’t have as big of a blanket senior college program as certain other states, but older folks who are eager to learn can still benefit. For a minimal cost, Idahoans 60+ years old can take college courses at the University of Idaho. Boise State University, Lewis-Clark State College, and the College of Southern Idaho also offer senior citizen tuition benefits.


Farm in Illinois.
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All public community colleges and a long list of universities in Illinois provide tuition waivers for residents 65 years and older. The catch? Your household must be considered low-income.


Countryside in Indiana.
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It must be something with states that start with an “I,” for Indiana also doesn’t offer seniors the college perks that many other states do. Hoosiers over 65 years old may receive 50% in-state tuition prices. They’re allowed to take up to nine credits each semester.


Corn field with windmill.
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Des Moines Area Community College allows people 62 years and older to take one for-credit class at no charge each semester. Additionally, Simpson College offers free or reduced education for Iowans 65+, depending on the type of credit they want.


Sunflower field.
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Free college education for seniors abounds to those who call Kansas home. From the University of Kansas to state colleges, Kansans can audit many classes at no cost to the student.


Horse stable in Kentucky.
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You’ll need to wait until you’re 65 years old to apply for free college classes in Kentucky. But once you hit that number, you’ll be able to register at any of the state’s public colleges and universities as long as there are spaces available in the classes you want to take.


Egret at Lake Martin in Louisiana.
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How does no tuition and no registration fees sound? Louisiana residents will get just that at any public college and university. Best of all? Those 55 years and older are eligible to apply, and reference books and other instruction aids are half off.


Maine lighthouse on rocky ocean coastline.
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Not only do senior citizen Maine residents get to forgo paying tuition at schools within the University of Maine college system, but they don’t have to pay what are often mandatory fees either. If the class you want to take has space and you’re 65+ years old, you can pretty much expect to be admitted.


Old houses in Frederick, Maryland.
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Maryland takes the phrase “education for retirees” seriously. They accept seniors as young as 60 years old, but they require senior students not to have full-time employment. So, expect to have to show that your main income comes from retirement benefits in order to be admitted to the school of your choice within the University System of Maryland.


Lighthouse at sunset in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
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The Bay State is a great place to be a resident if you’re interested in going to college as a senior. All public universities and colleges offer tuition waivers for anyone over the age of 60.


Waterfall in Michigan surrounded by fall foliage.
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The same can’t be said about Michigan in the senior higher education department as it can about Maine. Several institutions offer free education, mostly to residents starting at 60 years old, including Central Michigan University and Michigan Tech. However, their requirements and offerings are too varied to expand upon here.


Canoe on lake in Minnesota.
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If a real degree is what you’re after, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system offers a great perk for seniors. Minnesotans at least 62 years of age can pay a nominal fee for college credits. Alternatively, they can audit classes for free.


Mississippi sunrise over Cypress Swamp.
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You won’t find a free or discounted tuition policy across the board for seniors at public schools in Mississippi. Nevertheless, senior citizen residents can apply for limited tuition-free classes at Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi’s Lifelong Learners Program.


Fishing in a river.
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What’s better than local toasted ravioli in Missouri? A state law saying that any resident 65+ years old is guaranteed free tuition at a state college or university. That said, the schools are allowed to charge a small registration fee, and the ability to participate is based on class availability.


Road through Glacier National Park, Montana.
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The University of Montana offers what they call a Golden College Program, which waives tuition for Montanans who are at least 65 years old. All other state community colleges and universities also offer free senior tuition.


Toadstool Geologic Park.
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Nebraska is among the states that don’t have a statewide offering of free or reduced tuition for seniors. Nevertheless, it’s worth reaching out to the college of your choice; some, such as Chadron State College, offer their own programs to seniors meeting their requirements.


Nevada lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains.
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Nevadan seniors looking to connect with education-minded partially retired or fully retired peers are in luck. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute joined forces with the University of Nevada Las Vegas, offering college classes at a significant discount. Paying an annual membership will reap even larger savings for seniors interested in taking many classes.

New Hampshire

Fanconia, New Hampshire.
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The University of New Hampshire welcomes New Hampshirites who are at least 65 years old. They permit seniors to take two for-credit classes per year at the university. That said, eligible students are responsible for paying certain fees and class materials.

New Jersey

New Jersey city skyline.
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You may have to do some digging to find a reduced or tuition-free college in your golden years as a New Jerseyite. The state doesn’t mandate public colleges and universities to offer senior benefits. If you don’t know where to start looking, try Rutgers, which offers an audit program for senior citizens.

New Mexico

Desert in New Mexico.
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New Mexico residents 65 years and older only need to hand over $5 per credit hour to take classes at the state’s public colleges and universities. That financial perk doesn’t come without some caveats, though; only being able to take six credit hours each semester is among them.

New York

Areal view of New York City.
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If you’re 60 or older and a resident of New York State, you can take advantage of tuition-free audit-for-credit classes at the State University of New York (SUNY) campuses. Although the tuition is free, you’ll still need to pay an audit fee, though it’s minimal compared to the value of tuition-free education.

North Carolina

North Carolina mountains.
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Moving down south from New York might look extra attractive for education buffs because North Carolina state community colleges waive tuition and registration fees. The same goes for any University of North Carolina campus. You might have to pay application fees, though.

North Dakota

Overlook at sunrise in North Dakota national park.
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The Project 65 policy at North Dakota State University allows seniors who want to take the relaxation part of retirement a bit more seriously the opportunity to receive one tuition-free audit course each semester. Lake Region State College and Bismarck State College are other options for senior education benefits.


Red barn surrounded by cornfields in Ohio.
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The Buckeye State dotes on its seniors, offering residents 60+ years old the chance to study at any public university or college tuition-free. Like many states, the courses are audit-only, and you’ll need to cover the cost of lab fees and any other course materials your classes may require.


Bison in Oklahoma.
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Oklahoma is a no-brainer state for people seeking free college education during retirement to move to. As long as you’re at least 65 years old and an Oklahoma resident, you can apply to study at any state public college or university. Acceptance will depend on classroom availability.


Crater Lake in Oregon.
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The University of Oregon and Oregon State University are two solid options for retirees wanting to study during their golden years. Each has its own policies in terms of discounted or tuition-free rates as well as when senior students can take certain classes.


Autumn mountain trees tower over Allegheny River in Pennsylvania.
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You’ll have to do a bit of digging to find colleges and universities offering benefits to older students. However, Pennsylvania State University offers a tuition-free program for residents as young as 60; free college classes at Bucks County Community College are available to Pennsylvanians who are 65+ years old.

Rhode Island

Middletown, Rhode Island.
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Generally speaking, you must be a low-income senior to receive a tuition waiver at several higher education institutions in Rhode Island. The University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College, and Community College of Rhode Island are among them.

South Carolina

Shrimp boat in South Carolina.
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The Palmetto State may be extra attractive to retirees seeking to spend the remainder of their lives surrounded by southern charm; South Carolina has a law stating that residents 60+ can attend any state-funded college without paying tuition. The catch? Like most schools, it’s on a space-available basis.

South Dakota

Log cabin in South Dakota.
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While younger South Dakotan college students would jump at the discount many schools offer seniors, a 45% tuition discount sounds relatively unattractive compared to other options on this list. South Dakota State University and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology are among the institutions offering this discount to seniors 65+ years old.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.
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Tennessee doesn’t like to make its seniors jump through hoops paying college fees; residents 65+ receive tuition-free and (nearly) fee-free education at state universities and colleges. Some applicants might even qualify to receive these benefits at 55 years old. The only catch is that the schools require a small record-keeping fee.


Water running through a canyon in Texas.
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The Lone Star State is another place where the law ensures seniors receive a tuition-free college education. One must be at least 65 years old and sign up for no more than six hours of courses each semester to take advantage of this perk.


Arches Nationl Park, North Window, Utah.
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Free college tuition is available to Utahans at state-funded schools starting at 62 years old. Registration fees vary according to where you apply, but even the most expensive fees won’t break the average retiree’s bank account.


Montpelier, Vermont in the fall.
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The Green Mountain State doesn’t offer quite as attractive benefits to seniors wanting to study as many other parts of the US. That said, Vermonters who are at least 65 years old can take one tuition-free course each semester within the Vermont State Colleges System. Those itching for more education will receive 50% off regular tuition rates, and those credits can go towards a real undergraduate degree.


Virginia Statehouse in Richmond.
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Public colleges and universities are up for senior grabs, with a law stating that Virginia residents 60 years and older are permitted to take as many as three non-credit courses each term, quarter, or semester without paying tuition. Availability for any given class depends on classroom space.


Mt. Rainier in the backdrop in Washington.
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There’s a law in Washington ensuring that people 60 years and older have access to higher education. However, the law says that state universities and colleges may waive tuition in whole or in part. The institutions are also allowed to charge a tiny fee that varies depending on where you attend but is basically no more expensive than a fancy latte at Starbucks.

West Virginia

Bridge in West Virginia.
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You’ll likely pay some tuition and fees to attend college as a senior in West Virginia. However, the law states that the total tuition and fees for any given non-credit course may not surpass $50. In regards to for-credit courses, the rate can’t go above 50% of the non-senior student price.


Cattle grazing on autumn day in Wisconsin.
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Wisconsin’s public state college and university system has an interesting caveat to the tuition-free benefits it offers its residents who are 60+ years old; an instructor’s approval is required. Furthermore, seniors may provisionally attend the class of their choice until the add/drop deadline passes, even if space initially doesn’t appear available.


Barn at Grand Teton National Park.
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Free and reduced tuition for Wyoming seniors depends on the college. The University of Wyoming offers free classes for people 65+ as long as there’s space available. In contrast, those 60+ years old may attend Laramie County Community College at a discounted cost.

Importance of Exercising the Mind

Man squinting at his laptop.
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According to Scientific American, cognitive decline begins around 45 years old, with the rate of decline increasing after age 60. The good news? In many cases, seniors can reverse the trend by exercising their minds, and taking a college course can be a great way to do so.

Proof in the Pudding

Older couple walking outside.
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During a three-month program for people between 58 and 86 years old, researchers had participants go through a learning program. By the end of three months, many of the seniors experienced memory and attention resembling people 30 years younger than them. What better reason than that to give college a try during retirement?

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Sad man.
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Baby boomers are no strangers to criticisms from younger generations, and some youngins are stuck wondering why they won’t retire. But when broken down, it makes sense why boomers are forgoing retirement during their golden years.

12 Reasons Why Older Generations Aren’t Retiring

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Do you want to explore the world during retirement? Here are some excellent destinations to add to your bucket list, including options for active and low-impact travel.

20 Bucket List Destinations for Retirees

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