Many community-based organizations and institutions of higher learning offer free senior citizen education opportunities.
Opportunities for Free Senior Citizen Education
If you're interested in acquiring a new skill whether for personal reasons or professional purposes, you may be pleasantly surprised to find there are options for free senior citizen education in your area.
Free educational opportunities for seniors are often grant or scholarship based, so the availability may vary greatly from on area to another. In some cases, grants or scholarships are offered to individual seniors based on specific income, skill, or other criteria. In other cases, the organizations offering services may receive grant money to pay for training programs that they make available to the general senior population at no charge.
Where to Look for Senior Educational Services
Area Agency on Aging
There are Area Agency on Aging (AAA) organizations throughout the United States. Formed after the Older Americans Act was passed in 1973, the AAAs are tasked with the mission of making services and options available to seniors so they can remain active members of the community for as many years as possible. AAAs offer a wide variety of programs including;
- Educational opportunities
- Employment services
- Legal assistance
In many communities, the AAA operates senior centers that offer classes for crafts, computer training, and other types of educational opportunities.
Local programs vary based on community-specific needs. You can locate your local AAA on the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging website.
Local Community Colleges and Universities
Each state operates a postsecondary education system that consists of a network of community colleges and senior universities. Some offer discounted or free educational opportunities for senior citizens. The state of Alabama, for example, sponsors a scholarship program for senior adults. This program provides free tuition at two-year colleges in the state for individuals 60 and over who qualify for admission.
Requirements and availability of funds vary greatly from one state to another. If you're interested in finding out what opportunities might be available in your area, contact the financial aid or admissions office at the state schools in your area. Even if the school you want to attend doesn't offer specific funding opportunities for seniors, you may be able to qualify for a Pell grant or other need-based financial assistance program.
AARP SCSEP Training
The AARP Foundation offers no-cost job training to people age 55 and over with low incomes through the Senior Community Service Employment Program. Funded by the AARP Foundation and a grant from the United States Department of Labor, this free senior citizen education program is designed to help mature individuals get the job related skills they need to enter, or to re-enter, the workforce.
The AARP Foundation serves more than 70 SCSEP programs throughout the U.S. Search for programs by state on the AARP website. If your state isn't on the list, you may call the Department of Labor (1-877-US2-JOBS) to find out if there is a SCSEP center in your region that is not associated with AARP.
One of the best ways for seniors to learn new skills is to volunteer their time to help nonprofit organizations. Most nonprofits actively seek volunteer assistance on an ongoing basis, and offer training opportunities to help volunteer workers get the skills they need to perform the types of services they need. Check with one or more of the United Way agencies in your area to identify opportunities to acquire new skills and put them to use as a community volunteer.