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Back to School: Why Returning to College Could Be Your Best Retirement Move?

College Worth It? Yes, but other thoughts here.

Do you perceive retirement as an end to your long and fulfilling career? Well, for many Americans, retirement is the new beginning! How do you plan to make the most of your newfound free time and financial security?

Thinking traditionally, you might be planning vacations, devoting time to your favorite hobbies, or spending memorable moments with your grandkids.  However, recent trends reveal that an increasing number of US retirees are considering returning to college. How about expanding your social circle while engaging in lifelong learning in your golden years?

In this article, we will explore why going back to college during your retirement could be the best move. We have also outlined the potential benefits and hurdles you might encounter.

How is the retirement landscape changing in the US?

Retirement brings you the opportunity to redefine your life. Returning to college in retirement can be both physically and psychologically stimulating. Besides, you can embrace a new educational journey, expand your knowledge, and foster intellectual growth.

As a retiree, you would be living on a fixed income. So, it’s natural to try and avoid big tuition bills that might potentially come as a part of your educational process. Fortunately, many US institutes have designed programs for older individuals that come at just a fraction of today’s educational costs.

For instance, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute provides non-graded and non-credit courses for adults above 50. This program, funded through the Bernard Osher Foundation, involves a network of 122 colleges and university programs throughout the US.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute under Berkshire Community College charges just $60 a year as a membership fee. The fee structure of their sessions has been designed at $50 for each class.

This program is similar to the ones offered by other Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes. The best part is that you can even qualify for a scholarship! Currently, the academic program for seniors at this institute has 1,200 members. This program offers 26 classes in the fall semester to the learners.

Why return to college in retirement?

Check out why so many US retirees are returning to college after their retirement.

Earn more money as a retiree

How about exploring new earning prospects to ease up your finances during retirement? Learning a new skill would help you engage in side hustles like web designing or affiliate marketing. With the earning prospect looking promising, a significant number of US retirees are returning to college.

Part-time teaching, working on gigs, or pursuing anything that appeals to your intellect would spruce up your retired life. Opportunities for retirees are endless, and embracing continued learning can stream in fresh income.

Foster social connections

While you return to college as a retiree, you can rediscover your spark of life. Being a part of a learning environment brings you a new social circle of professors and students.

By breaking age barriers, retirees can gain fresh perspectives as they work on developing supportive social networks. The experience can be enriching indeed, where you can remain abreast with current ideas while reigniting the spirit of learning.

Gain new perspectives to realign concepts

How about broadening your perspectives by learning from people from different walks of life? Maybe, the person sitting next to you is much younger and comes from a different background altogether. It’s all about exploring a new way of life during your retirement and imbibing valuable lessons in your life.

Through education, retirees can also discover their old passions and find new ones. Attending college as a retiree serves as a door to enrich your later years. Over time, your concepts might have faded away, so this is the ideal opportunity to build them over the existing ones.

Start a new business

Many retirees continue engaging in businesses and side hustles late into their 70s. How about starting a new business and strengthening your finances with your newfound skills?

College education for retirees brings them the opportunity to expand their skills and network. With access to classmates and professors for teamwork and mentorship, collaboration opportunities look promising. Thus, you would be better poised for success in the entrepreneurial field.

[Related: Revamp Your Back-to-School Shopping: 20 Must-Have Supplies You Can Easily Order Online]

5 Tips for retirees going back to college

Getting back to college as a retiree shouldn’t drain your savings! Here are a few guidelines that should keep education affordable while fostering continual mental stimulation.

Avail senior citizen tuition waivers

As a senior citizen, you can qualify for a tuition fee waiver at certain colleges if you fulfill their requirements. Thus, you get the opportunity to earn college credits at no additional tuition cost.

State residents aged 60 and above in Massachusetts have the option of enrolling in graduate or undergraduate courses at state and community colleges. This includes the University of Massachusetts, where you need not pay any tuition fee. However, some minor charges may be applicable.

Retirees may also check out Education Code 89330 of the California State University System for such waivers. Some of the other institutions in the US designing similar programs for retirees include Colorado State University, Clemson University, and Georgia Institute of Technology.

Use your 529 college savings account leftovers

Do you know that you can use the 529 College savings account leftovers from your kids’ education for your own classes? Even if you don’t pursue a specific certificate or degree at retirement, you can make the most of these savings.

While you live on carefully calculated funds, it’s wise to think about using up these funds, if available.

Use campus amenities

Well, engaging in education in your retired life isn’t the only way to make your days happening. In colleges, you can attend concerts, meetings, and conferences. Then there are sporting events and free libraries to attend. This way, you can ditch expensive library memberships you might have otherwise gone for. Other athletic facilities and campus benefits come as a bonus.

Immersing yourself in these activities, you can potentially save yourself hundreds of dollars as you get them at a little cost. Have you weighed the cumulative value of such advantages from a financial perspective?

Embrace a campus life

In some colleges, you have retirement communities close to the campus. Being a part of these communities, you can enjoy a vibrant campus life. Whether it’s exploring new learning experiences or socializing with others, you have tons of interesting avenues to explore.

Many colleges have come up with these communities on their campuses, while others have communities close by.

Attend audit classes free of cost

Many retirees prefer attending audit classes at colleges for free. As a part of this academic environment, you can attend interesting lectures to stimulate your interest in the desired field. These classes don’t require you to do any homework or academic projects. Neither are any grades or credits provided as a part of free audit classes.

For instance, residents in Florida who are at least 60 years old can enroll for audit classes at the University of Central Florida for free. The university allows retirees to attend classes only if they have seats vacant after accommodating paying students.

Things to consider when you go back to college as a retiree

While the idea of returning to college turns out to be stimulating for retirees, you need to think of the practicality of the idea. Here are certain aspects which require serious thought from retirees.

How committed are you to learning?

Being a part of college after retirement, you would be channeling your time, efforts, and money to learn something new. A goal-oriented approach on your end would help you make the most of these learning opportunities.

Before enrolling, carefully consider your commitment level in terms of interest and time. Accordingly, you may decide to curtail time on other commitments and allocate time to studying.

If you already have some side hustles, you may commit a few hours each week to learning. This way, you won’t have to sacrifice your source of earnings. Besides, it pays to explore online learning alternatives during your retirement.

Have you considered the opportunity cost of learning?

It’s great to pursue learning at an old age. However, have you factored in the opportunity cost, like time and resources, that you are going to allocate to pursue education? Would going back to college enhance your quality of lifestyle in any way?

Maybe, you could engage in something more productive with the same resources. Starting a business from home in your field of expertise, for instance, may turn out to be a more profitable activity rather than studying.

A careful evaluation of your financial freedom should help you decide on the right course.

Will the course help you earn more?

As a retiree, you need to give serious thought to your learning path before you enroll in a course. You might decide to upgrade your existing skills while remaining in the same industry. However, a large section of retirees prefer switching careers after retirement. So, you might be bracing up to imbibe a whole new set of skills.

From a practical perspective, clarity helps retirees remain committed to their goals. By being informed about where the course will propel your career, you can embrace a productive learning experience.

What degree would be ideal for you?

Depending on your interests and industry trends, you need to decide on the degree to pursue. With a Master’s degree, you can land a teaching position at the college level. However, with layoffs becoming frequent as a result of corporate reorganization, you might decide to gain more tenacity through a Ph.D. degree.

Consider the skills that you look forward to cultivating and the corresponding opportunities in your respective industry. For instance, if you are eyeing a managerial position but lack a bachelor’s degree, you need to go for this inevitably. However, if you already hold a bachelor’s degree, a certificate during retirement might be the most viable option.

A personal choice!

A transformative and rewarding experience awaits you as you plan to get back to college after retirement. With careful planning and commitment, you can make the most of these opportunities. Foster stronger social connections and nurture your mental growth while striding ahead to fulfill your personal priorities after you retire.

With lifelong learning, retirement can embrace a vibrant and purposeful lifestyle. While beaches and vacations continue to be the norm, reconsidering college education brings several advantages to the table.

After all, it’s never too late to invest in yourself! Pursuing education as a retiree can be a gratifying indulgence with years of leisure hours waiting for you. 


Is it common for retirees to return to college?

The trend of retirees returning to college is relatively new. However, it is picking up pace, and many colleges have also responded to this need of retirees by rolling out relevant and cost-effective courses. As more retirees continue to recognize the value of post-retirement education and career building, they are looking forward to returning to college.

Are there age restrictions for enrolling in college as a retiree?

In general, there are no age restrictions for retirees to enroll in colleges that design programs specifically for them.

Some colleges in the US allow adult students as young as 50 to join these courses. While some colleges arrange for classes where their regular as well as retired students study together, others have dedicated classes for retired students. Therefore, you must check with universities or colleges to find their specific requirements.

What challenges can I expect when returning to college during my retirement?

Returning to college after retirement presents challenges like balancing academics with regular responsibilities. You need to adapt to the new learning environment and acquire technological skills.

Emotionally, you need to make some adjustments while you step out of your comfort zone. With proper planning and support, many retirees have overcome these challenges to enjoy a rewarding experience while learning.

Will going back to college help me find a new job in retirement?

Returning to college can enhance your skills, knowledge, and employability. Thus, you can tap new doors to part-time job opportunities.

Retirees often combine their experience with fresh knowledge to engage in consulting work or start new businesses. The job prospects largely depend on your industry and chosen field of study.

Would it be financially viable to return to college during retirement?

While you shouldn’t stress yourself financially once you retire, you can always look out for affordable learning opportunities. Scholarships and grants are available for retirees interested in learning, too.

Carefully weigh your retirement savings and explore potential earning opportunities before you shell out anything from your savings. It’s wise to look out for free courses or ones that come at manageable costs.

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Managing Editor
Deanna Ritchie is a managing editor at Due. She has a degree in English Literature. She has written 2000+ articles on getting out of debt and mastering your finances. She has edited over 60,000 articles in her life. She has a passion for helping writers inspire others through their words. Deanna has also been an editor at Entrepreneur Magazine and ReadWrite.

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