Free (or Cheap) College for Retirees in All 50 States

Whether it's to complete a degree, gain new knowledge or just for fun, retirees can collect their books and get on (back) to school in a most inexpensive way.

A senior man graduates with his master's degree
(Image credit: Getty Images )

As a retiree, you’re already a bona-fide graduate of the school of hard knocks – your decades of full-time employment. There’s still a lot to learn, however, whether your goal is pursuing a second act in your career, lifelong learning to keep your brain sharp or to finally complete that long sought-after master's.

Across the country, retirees can take advantage of free (or close to it) college courses for older residents at various public and private institutions. Some programs allow elders as young as 55 to participate.

Most free-tuition programs make older students wait until registration for classes has closed and the add-drop period has ended. In other words, paying students generally get first priority, and you’ll only be able to enroll “on a space-available basis.” In most cases, you have to go through the normal admissions process and be accepted at the college or university before you can enroll in individual classes. And while tuition may be waived, you may encounter fees to apply or register or to use labs, campus gyms, or other resources tied to a particular class. You’ll also have to pay for books and other course materials.

Many free-for-retirees programs only allow you to audit classes, meaning you won’t get college credit. That might be right up your alley, though. Also note that during the pandemic, some colleges may still be doing remote classes. Make sure you're geared up for remote learning.

Take a look.

Bob Niedt
Online Editor, Kiplinger.com

Bob is a Senior Online Editor at Kiplinger.com. He has more than 40 years of experience in online, print and visual journalism. Bob has worked as an award-winning writer and editor in the Washington, D.C., market as well as at news organizations in New York, Michigan and California. Bob joined Kiplinger in 2016, bringing a wealth of expertise covering retail, entertainment, and money-saving trends and topics. He was one of the first journalists at a daily news organization to aggressively cover retail as a specialty, and has been lauded in the retail industry for his expertise. Bob has also been an adjunct and associate professor of print, online and visual journalism at Syracuse University and Ithaca College. He has a master’s degree from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a bachelor’s degree in communications and theater from Hope College.