5 Tips for Returning to School During Retirement

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Two older women hugging each other outside.

Many people dream of retiring early so they can have more time to travel the world, learn new
hobbies and look after their grandchildren. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying all these
things in retirement, many senior citizens today are taking an entirely different approach to life
by returning to school. Older individuals approaching retirement are also taking time to plan
ahead and accumulate skills before leaving their jobs.

Why Seniors Are Going Back to School

Here are a few reasons why many senior citizens decide to go back to school during retirement:

  • To maintain competitive skills. You probably already know that, in today’s fast-paced
    world, one must constantly reinvent how they work and keep their skills updated so they
    don’t become obsolete. As a senior citizen, just because you’re officially retired doesn’t
    mean you want to stop learning more about new skills or enhancing skills you’ve worked
    on throughout your career.
  • To consider a second career. According to a recent survey, 72 percent of pre-retirees
    aged 50 or older want to keep working during their retirement years. And, to some, that
    could mean going back to school to set the foundation for a new, more flexible, and
    fulfilling career.
  • To fulfill a lifelong goal. For many retirees who had to forgo college education for
    various reasons, the opportunity to realize their lifelong dream of obtaining a degree may
    be attainable as a senior citizen.
  • To embrace new challenges. It’s not uncommon for seniors to go back to college as a
    way of embracing a new challenge and pursuing personal development.

If you are a retiree looking to expand your knowledge, learn new skills, and find more social
engagement in retirement, going back to school may be the best thing to do.

If you own a majority equity in your home, a reverse mortgage (which only seniors can apply for) from niche companies like All Reverse Mortgage can help you fund your educational ventures.

Note: You must be in a very specific situation for a reverse mortgage to make financial sense. You must be over the age of 62. If you have a spouse ideally they’ll be over 62, too. For it to be advantageous you must not plan on leaving your house to anyone after you pass away, and you won’t be considering a move any time in the near future. There are other considerations, too. Do more research before making this massive financial move.

Here is how you can return to college as a senior without straining your family finances:

Enroll in Online Education Programs

One of the most affordable and convenient ways to expand your knowledge in a field you’re
interested in is taking online education programs from home on your personal computer.
Harvard University, Coursera, and EDX are some of the best places to take free online
programs.

Most of the courses on these online platforms are taught by leading professors and experienced professionals in the respective fields. You may have to pay a small fee to get a formal certificate after completing the course requirements. If you’re tech-savvy and have difficulty driving to campus for physical classes, online programs may be a good fit for you.

Join Programs Designed for Retired Individuals

Many senior citizens live off a fixed income and can’t afford the big college tuition bills and other unexpected costs that may come with returning to school. Others don’t just enjoy sharing a classroom with younger people working towards a degree.

The good news is that there are college campuses with programs that are specifically designed for retirees and senior citizens for a fraction of the total cost of today’s college tuition. You can take advantage of the non-credit, non-graded programs targeting people over 50 offered at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLIs) on campuses such as:

  • California State University.
  • Dartmouth College.
  • Duke University.
  • University of Pittsburgh.
  • Colorado State University.
  • Etc.

Try to Get a Senior Citizen Tuition Waiver

Another option to consider when looking to return to school on a budget is to find colleges and
universities that provide retirees with senior citizen tuition waivers. According to the American
Council of Education, about 60 percent of the learning institutions accredited to grant degrees
offer tuition waivers for senior citizens.

To qualify for a tuition waiver, you should be aged 60 and older and meet other requirements set by the state and learning institution. Keep in mind that though you’ll enroll and learn without paying for tuition, you may be required to pay some other fees. In some states, you will not be able to enroll in a degree program if you are using this type of tuition waiver.

Consider Auditing a Course

Many community colleges and universities across the U.S allow retirees to audit courses for
free. In Florida, for instance, all state universities are required by law to waive college tuition and fees for residents ages 60 or older taking not-for-credit classes.

Auditing classes give you an opportunity to attend exciting lectures covering a field you may be interested in. However, it is important to note that you won’t receive college credit. Even if there are no official audit programs in your state, consider asking the institution if they can let you sit in on a class or course that interests you. It’s still possible to make such an arrangement with a college as an individual.

Move to a Retirement Community on or Near Campus

The American Council of Education reports that about 50 percent of college-going seniors
attend community colleges and universities, primarily to connect with other people, learn new
skills for a new career, and for fun.

What’s more, some educational institutions have gone ahead to construct retirement communities on or near their campuses. If you’re a senior citizen living in a college-based retirement community, you can take advantage of various campus amenities and be part of campus life. Many colleges with these communities allow residents to use their libraries, be part of their concerts or sporting events and attend classes for free.

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