If you’ve just retired and are missing the structure and challenges of working life, you may want to consider going back to school. Continuing your education is a great way to keep your mind sharp, meet new people, and take part in a daily activity that keeps you connected with the outside world. There are many states that offer seniors the opportunity to audit in-person classes and take some online classes for free. So, you can show up to lectures, take part in class discussion, and even complete assignments without getting a credit or having to pay any tuition. However, if you’re interested in pursuing another career after retiring from your current profession or you want to have a degree to put on your wall, you may need to pay for your schooling. There are some tax credits available from the government, which will help offset the costs.
When it comes to choosing a school for your next degree, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind, especially if you’re a senior. Some schools offer great resources, including writing, career guidance, and IT help, to all of their students regardless of where they’re studying. If you’re new to computers or aren’t sure how to use online educational programs like Blackboard or Coursera, having these resources available for free is helpful. You should also make sure that you’re familiar with the school’s policies and understand the format that the instructors will use to deliver lectures and collect assignments.
As such, here are some of the best online degree programs that are a perfect fit for seniors going back to school.
1. University of Washington
The University of Washington, which is located in Seattle, is a great school that offers a wide variety of online courses to students of all ages, ranging from bachelor’s and master’s degrees to certificate programs that can be completed in less than nine months.
One of the certificates that may be attractive to someone who wants to improve their writing and communication skills is their certificate in editing, which is done in an online group setting. There are set due dates for assignments, and students have to log on at the same time as their classmates to have discussions and interact with their instructor. The course costs $2,925 and will help students improve the quality of anything they write. This is a great course for someone whose post-retirement plans involve finally completing their novel.
2. New York University
New York University is one of the most prestigious schools in the country. They recently committed to growing their online learning capabilities, so they can better serve more students. Right now, they only offer a few programs online, including a Master of Health Administration, an online certification course in Advanced Valuation from the Stern School of Business, and an interesting course called The Art of Travel, which is offered by NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
If you love to travel and have vowed to get out of the country more in retirement, The Art of Travel may be the course for you. Students enrolled in this course study the art, history, and literature of travel, then write about their responses to the readings as they relate to their own travel experience. This course costs $2,302 and is a great way to encourage yourself to reflect and think deeply on your experiences away from home.
3. University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota is deeply committed to helping seniors achieve their potential. In addition to a robust selection of online offerings, they have an in-person course at the UoM campus in Minneapolis called Encore Transitions, which helps seniors figure out the right time to retire, and negotiate that major change in their life.
Their online courses are either 100 percent online or partially online, with infrequent visits to a UoM campus. One of their most interesting offerings is a Bachelor of Arts in Tribal Administration and Governance, which studies the methods of governance used by Native Nations, as well as their history with the federal government. Students take courses in American Indian diplomacy and business processes as they relate to tribal management.
All of the 120-credit programs at UofM are priced at $395 per credit hour.
4. Mississippi State University
When studying at Mississippi State University, students have access to all the resources traditionally available to in-person students, like tutoring, financial aid, and career counseling.
MSU is one of the only schools in the United States that offers online education programs, including degree-granting programs, to seniors for free. If you’re 60 years or older, you can take up to 18 credits per year and pay nothing. Many of their courses are asynchronous, which means that students can log in and watch lectures or complete course work whenever they like.
MSU offers Bachelor of Science degrees that cover programs like business administration, industrial technology, or elementary education. Plus, they have several different options for master’s degrees and certificates for those who want to work with veterans, in meteorology, or in wellness coaching.
Tuition is $356 per credit hour if younger than 60 years of age.
5. Pace University
Located in New York, Pace University is one of the many schools across the United States that offers an Encore Transition program for seniors, as well as their own specially-developed Encore Transition Corporate Program, which helps introduce corporate retirees to non-profit organizations that would benefit from their wealth of experience.
If you already have a new career path lined up after retirement, you can use their online degree programs to get a jump on your education while you’re still at work. They offer online certificates, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees in subjects like business studies, computer forensics, publishing, accounting, and auditing. Their courses are set up so students can log in and complete work on their own time, and if you don’t have a computer at home and live nearby, you can use the computers at Pace.
Tuition for all of their degree programs is $995 per credit.
6. University of West Florida
At the University of West Florida, students can enroll in a variety of different degree programs, including their brand-new MicroMasters, which are 12 to 18 week courses designed to accelerate the student’s career. These graduate-level courses only require eight to 12 hours of work per week and can be applied as a credit towards an accelerated master’s degree or taken solo as a certificate-level course.
If you’re looking to do a full degree, they offer undergraduate degrees in education, health sciences, instructional design, and even maritime studies. In particular, the Bachelor of Arts in Maritime Studies is a great degree for anyone who lives by the water and wants to learn how to manage and protect this precious natural resource.
Tuition starts at $218 per credit hour for residents and $656 for non-residents. However, UWF offers a tuition fee waiver for residents of Florida over the age of 60, which makes any degree free.
7. Methodist University
Located in Fayetteville, North Carolina, senior students at Methodist University can earn credits for free if they’re over the age of 65. Because of this perk, many seniors who do want a degree complete as many of their credits as possible at MU, then transfer their official credits to another school at a later date. Students can study financial management, organization and leadership, or applied business statistics, then apply these credits to a BA or MBA at a different school.
While MU does offer a wide variety of online courses, unfortunately, students aren’t able to earn their degree completely online at this time. If you’re not 65 yet, these online courses cost $491 per credit hour.
8. Grand Rapids Community College
The Older Learners Center at Grand Rapids Community College has a wide variety of courses designed to keep seniors in the community active and engaged. They offer fitness programs in their gym and health education for older adults.
If you want to keep your brain as active as your body, Grand Rapids offer online associate degree programs in subjects like information security. They also have dozens of courses that do require some in-class appearances but administer 50 percent or more of their coursework online. Some of these programs include journalism, web design, and chemical technology. Their resources for people with disabilities and seniors are fantastic, and they offer lots of financial assistance for veterans.
Tuition is $144 or $244 per credit hour, depending on residency.
9. Austin Community College
Another school that offers free tuition for state residents that are over the age of 65 is Austin Community College. If you’re a Texas resident that’s over 65, you can take six credits per semester at ACC completely free of charge — you just have to maintain the required minimum GPA.
ACC offers a wide variety of associate degrees in subjects like computer science, hospitality and tourism, health science, and education. They make it really easy for students to transfer credits to a university at a later date and are dedicated to helping students succeed through resources like tutoring and accessibility services. They also offer generous support for veterans and may be able to transfer some credits from the military to your degree.
If you aren’t able to get tuition covered, it will average out to about $5,100 for a two-year degree.
10. Rio Salado College
Rio Salado College offers senior students the opportunity to choose between 60 different degree paths, ranging from traditional offerings like accounting or retail management to their small business start-up program, which will give you all the necessary skills to make your start-up dream a reality. All their programs are available in certificates or associate degrees.
Rio Salado offers a special 50+ Encore Program, which re-trains adults aged 50+ who are interested in pursuing teaching positions in elementary, secondary, and special education. Their classes are all online, and students are able to log in on their own time to complete course work.
If you’re a local, you’ll pay less than $50 per credit hour, but even if you live out-of-state, you’ll only pay $215.
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