Many senior citizens have never had an opportunity to go to college. Born during the baby boom, they came of age at a time when it was common to leave high school and enter adult life directly afterwards, either by joining the work force or getting married, or sometimes both. College was just not an option for many people during this era.
The baby boomers are now in their retirement years, with most of them already in the ranks of our senior citizens. With retirement comes more free time and now, for the first time in their lives, many of these senior citizens find themselves able to devote significant hours to study and attending classes.
Cost should not be an obstacle. There are many ways in which senior citizens can go to college without paying any out of pocket expense, or paying only a minimal amount.
Note, there are a few programs you can apply to if you are looking for some financial help. You can register for the 10k Scholarship for Working Adults, which puts you in for a draw for a 10k Scholarship.
There are some private services that will help you find funding opportunities to go to school.
Some states actively encourage senior citizens to attend college. In addition to the benefit this provides to the elderly population, state legislators believe that the presence of senior citizens in the classroom will have a positive effect on younger students. They will work and study harder in order not to be perceived as unable to keep up with the senior citizens. Elderly students also bring a higher level of respect and life experience into the classroom setting.
For all these reasons, many states have adopted ordinances that waive tuition for citizens above a certain age. In South Carolina, for example, state law grants free college tuition to anyone who is both a citizen and over the age of fifty-nine. Senior citizens will still have to pay for their books and in some cases will have to fund a small application fee, but courses themselves are provided free of charge at government colleges and universities.
Texas offers a similar program but limits eligibility to those who are sixty five years of age or older. Texas, however, caps the number of free credit hours at six.
Other states provide free tuition at the community college level but not at university. This would allow the senior citizen to obtain a two year but not a four year degree free of charge.
Individual colleges also sometimes offer free tuition to senior citizens, even when state laws do not require it. The only way to find out if your college of choice has a program is to investigate either on the Internet or by calling the admissions office and asking a few questions.
The Lifetime Learning Credit
The federal government is also interested in promoting college for all citizens regardless of age. For this reason the United States tax code contains a provision known as the Lifetime Learning Credit. This is a tax credit of up to $10,000 that can be used every year that it applies. This will not make college free since it can only be applied to 20% of annual expenses, but when it comes to funding college for seniors, every little bit helps.