For older adults, there’s never been a better time to head back to school. To respond to the challenges of the pandemic, more colleges are offering online degree programs — and offering coursework for a greater variety of fields. Online degrees can help you start a post-retirement career, boost your cognitive abilities, or simply fulfill a lifelong dream. To get started, you’ll need to research online degrees and compare the benefits of each program.
In 2020, many colleges and universities began offering online coursework for the first time to maintain enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic. That created an opportunity for students of all ages: Online courses provide a convenient alternative to in-person classes, often at a much lower cost.
For older adults,these programs offer several notable advantages:
A more flexible way to attend classes. Online classes let students attend lectures, submit homework, and interact with their professors from the comfort of their own homes. Many courses don’t have set hours, so you can work on your degree when you have the time.
Comfortable interaction with classmates. Older adults have life experience that can be valuable in the classroom, and modern online classes allow you to have face-to-face discussions (via webcam) with professors and other students.
Affordable tuition. Many online courses are cheaper than in-person courses, especially considering parking, meals, and other expenses. Of course, this isn’t true for every college — you’ll need to research carefully before enrolling.
So, why earn a degree? That depends on your goals. If you’re retired, online programs can help you add new technical skills to find fulfilling post-retirement work. You might take art classes to enjoy a new hobby, history courses to build your knowledge, or a certificate program to build your resume. Whatever your priorities, distance learning gives you the freedom to go back to school on your own terms.
Distance learning is popular with all age groups. Online course-taking has increased for the past 14 consecutive years, despite declining numbers for overall enrollment, and many older students are using online college courses to earn degrees and certifications.
However, not all courses offer the same benefits. When evaluating online programs, keep these tips in mind:
Look at a variety of schools. Regardless of whether you’re finishing a degree or starting fresh, you’ll need to compare schools carefully. Look at a variety of programs, including options that don’t immediately appeal to you — your research will give you a better idea of how online colleges work and which factors are most important to you.
Understand all of the costs of enrollment. In addition to tuition, consider book fees, technology fees, and other expenses. A great degree is worth the money, but you can avoid overpaying by collecting information about costs upfront.
Here’s the good news: Most colleges have moved quickly to make distance learning easy, convenient, and practical for students. You don’t need much technical knowledge to enroll; if you have a computer with a webcam, you’re probably ready to start your studies.
With that said, comparing programs will help you avoid degree remorse. Older adults have more higher education options than ever before, and by looking online, you can take the first steps towards an exhilarating new chapter in your life.
Online degree programs offer a better environment for learning, and thousands of senior citizens have used distance learning to fulfill their educational goals.
From 2010 to 2019, the percentage of people aged 25 or older with advanced college degrees jumped by more than 6 percent, per the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s partially due to increased enrollment among students older than 25 — and while older adults make up a small percentage of the overall enrollment, they’re steadily increasing their share.
If you’re ready to join them, visit at least 3-4 online colleges or universities. Read each page carefully, considering tuition costs, program reputation, and other factors. The resources on this page can help you jumpstart your research.