How to Get College Money for Senior Citizens

Tamsen Butler
Contributor: Terry Hurley
A graduation cap and money

A number of different sources offer college money to senior citizens. If you are thinking about returning to college to earn a degree or just want to take a few classes, you may qualify for grants and scholarships designed to help seniors pay for college. Even if you don't, you can look for tuition waivers or audit a class or two.

Scholarships for Senior Citizens

For qualifying senior citizens, money to help lower the costs of taking college classes may be available from federal and state government agencies, public and private institutions, private organizations, and foundations.

Federal and State Grants for Senior Citizens' Education

Many types of college grants and scholarships do not have an age limit, making them available to senior citizens that meet the specific requirements. One example of this is the Federal grant program. Regardless of your age, you can qualify for the Federal Pell grant by:

  • Filling out the FAFSA application (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
  • Showing that you need financial assistance
  • Attending a college that is accredited on a half-time basis or more

Many students that qualify for the Federal Pell grant also receive a second supplemental grant.

By filing FAFSA, seniors can find out which grants they qualify for as older, non-traditional students. With just this one form you can qualify for all the grants, at both the federal and state levels, that are available to you.

Independent Grants and Scholarships for Senior Citizens

Various institutions, foundations and organizations offer many grants and scholarships. Examples of grants or scholarships available only to seniors include, but are not limited to:

  • The Jeanette Rankin Foundation Women's Education Fund for women that are aged 35 or older and meet the low-income eligibility guidelines. Women applying for this award must be going to college to attain their first degree. It can be a vocational, technical, associates or bachelor's degree.
  • Alpha Sigma Lambda gives $3500 scholarships to adult learners pursuing an undergraduate degree.
  • The Adult Students in Scholastic Transition Grant, known as ASIST, from the Executive Women International (EWI) is available only to women.

Tuition Waivers and Discounts

There are public universities and colleges located in many states throughout the country that will waive the cost of tuition for senior citizens. In some cases, the schools limit the number of tuition-free courses that senior citizens can take per semester. In many of the states that do not waive the tuition completely, the colleges allow seniors to attend classes for a discounted fee. Often, community colleges offer similar tuition waivers or discounts to senior citizens.

The following states are among those that waive tuition costs for senior citizens attending public universities or colleges (check with your school for available waivers and discounts):

  • Vermont
  • New Hampshire
  • Connecticut
  • New Jersey
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Alaska

Audit a Class

Many colleges offer older students the opportunity to audit classes for free, or at a discounted rate. This is a great choice for senior citizens who are not concerned with earning a degree or certificate but are interested in academics. You can enjoy learning about the subjects that interest you without having to pay the high cost of tuition.

Tips for Reducing College Costs

After checking in with the financial aid office of your preferred college, try these tips to further lower the costs associated with returning back to school:

  • To reduce the costs of textbooks, purchase used books at the bookstore, shop online or see if they are available from the library.
  • If you have the time, consider taking a part-time job at the college for a reduced tuition rate, if offered.
  • Look into taking some, or all, of your classes online. Online classes are available from many colleges and save you the expense of traveling to and from the school.
  • The book 501 Ways for Adult Students to Pay for College: Going Back to School Without Going Broke by Kelly and Gene Tanabe is found at most libraries and is available from Amazon.
  • If you still work, inquire with your employer about any tuition reimbursement programs available.
  • Some colleges offer scholarships that don't apply to tuition but help offset other expenses like food from the cafeteria.
  • Take any of the tax credits available for secondary education for which you are eligible.
  • Avoid taking out student loans if possible if you want to avoid going into debt for your education.
  • Attend a lower cost college instead of a private university.

Scholarships for Senior Citizens Returning to College

There are several sources of college money for senior citizens available to those who qualify. In addition to all of the sources listed above, the college you are going to attend may also have private sources for seniors. If you want to take college classes, contact the school and ask them if there are any scholarships or grants for older students and if they offer tuition waivers and discounts to senior citizens. You might just be surprised at how affordable studying could be!

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How to Get College Money for Senior Citizens