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College Assistance for the Over 50 Crowd

written by: Winston Smith•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 12/9/2011

While it can be intimidating to be the oldest student in the lecture hall that is the least of your worries -- there are financial, academic and social challenges of college when you are 50 plus. You need some strategies to help a mature student like yourself navigate their way through college.

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    Where To Find Financial Assistance

    The cost of college has been increasing faster than inflation for the past several decades, students over fifty years of age need to research their financial options. While mature students likely do not have family support, they have other options to consider. Traditional financial aid programs are restricted based on financial need; if you own your own home and a car, you will likely be ineligible for much of this assistance.

    What options can students over fifty pursue to fund their studies? College assistance for individuals over 50 years old does exist. Some colleges and states offer tuition waivers and reductions for study at publicly funded institutions. For example, Chicago State University has a tuition waiver that provides a limited number of free courses to Illinois residents over the age of sixty five who meet certain conditions. There is a similar program available to students over the age of sixty five in Virginia and several other states. Ask the financial aid office at your local public college or university for information on your state’s financial assistance programs.

    If the courses or degree program is professional or career related, you may also be able to receive support from your employer. If the goal is to develop a specific set of skills rather than earning an entire degree, your case to request funding will get a better reception. Finally, don’t forget to research scholarships; this form of assistance is open to students with outstanding ability and age is not always a factor. The least attractive option is to take out loans to fund your studies. If you follow this option, carefully think through how and when you will be able to repay the loan and how repayments will impact your other financial commitments such as saving for retirement.

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    Academic Assistance for Mature Students

    College studies have their own expectations that are quite different from the workplace; students over fifty should expect some adjustments as they start to take classes. If you are balancing studies with family and work responsibilities, it is your responsibility to plan your time and ask for extensions in advance if you need them.

    Most universities and colleges have writing centers and math labs that tutor students in these fundamental academic skills – do not be afraid to seek their assistance. Consider these services just another form of college assistance for individuals over 50 years old. Taking an essay or problem set to the center for comment a few days before you hand it in often results in better grades. These support services can also help you understand what academic assignments involve and how they differ from corporate reports or other workplace projects.

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    Social Considerations for Students 50 and Over

    The social aspects of the college experience may be less important for mature students over fifty but it should not be neglected. Events organized by your university’s mature students' organization may be of interest. You may also find student groups for students with families. Last but not least, classmates can become friends especially if you work together on a project or form a study group. Before registering in a program, discuss the decision with your spouse and family to make sure they understand what you are doing.

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    Further Reading






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