AUSTIN (KXAN) — Thousands of Texans are turning to statewide and federal programs each year to attend college for free.
The only eligibility requirement? The student must be over 65 years old.
“Texas really wants to encourage individuals in Texas that are 65 and older to take advantage of the great higher education system we have in the state,” David Gardner with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board said. “So there are 42 universities and 6 community college districts that encourage students to take classes on their campus that are tax payer supported for no tuition.”
According to Gardner, the program that is part of the Texas Education Code allows seniors to take up to six hours of classes a semester free of charge.
The program does not include any additional materials that students would need for each class, including textbooks.
“Many people have things they have wanted to learn about their entire career,” Gardner said. “Actually in this age group, with the longevity now, there will be people who may be starting second careers at 65.”
The AARP Foundation started a similar program in August for people wanting to get back into the workplace.
The “Back to Work 50+” program is federally funded and is geared towards students 50 and older.
“It is a wonderful program especially for people who are entering the job market after being out of it for a long time,” Victoria Vlach, a prospective student at Austin Community College said.
Four Texas sites participate in the AARP program, including Austin Community College, Dallas Workforce Solutions, Tarrant County College District, and Alamo Community Colleges.
“I have been looking for a lot of different ways to help me obtain the next stage of my career,” Vlach said, “and it looked like an opportunity that was worth exploring.”
Gardner said the program is beneficial to not only the senior students but also the younger students in the classroom.
“For history classes, for example, many of the students may have actually lived through some of the things discussed in the class,” Gardner said. “They can provide a whole different perspective to the professor and the textbook.”
For more information on the programs click here.