Few things in life are worse than regret. If you regret never getting that college degree, it’s not too late. An online degree is within reach - with lots of affordable options. And the first step towards achieving that goal is only a click away.
Let’s face it: Not having a degree has kept you from advancing your whole life. It’s not your fault. Life circumstances keep many people from starting or finishing school: money, marriage, a job, kids.
Now it’s your turn. Online degree programs are perfect for seniors. You can take classes in your own time from the comfort of home. Distance learning is a great option for people with mobility issues, hearing difficulties, non-drivers and those with commitments at home. With online programs, there’s no commute and no parking worries. Class schedules are flexible, and many courses allow you to view class material when you want - and repeatedly so you can work at your own pace.
You’re already on the internet. That means you have the basic tools you need for online education: a computer and an internet connection. Some schools even provide laptop computers so you’re not tethered to a cord.
The best part is you’re not limited by geography. With online education, you can attend schools anywhere, including top-ranked institutions like Penn State, University of Florida, Arizona State University, Texas Tech and Rutgers. More than 1,000 accredited schools offer quality education in hundreds of programs, from accounting to web development. Choose from traditional colleges and universities to online-only schools granting full online degrees at all levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, as well as certificate programs.
As the population ages, more seniors are returning to school. Some online schools report that as many as 10 percent of their students are 50 and older. Coupled with new technology and the popularity of online learning, choices have blossomed in the two decades since the advent of online-only schools. More than two-thirds of public and private institutions now have online courses, and almost 75 percent of top-notch elite schools offer online degree programs.
Many schools offer special services for older students. Some pair students with individual advisors, and most help you get in the swing with introductory lessons explaining how online courses work. Lots of courses are geared towards the 50-plus crowd, particularly at community colleges.
In online class discussions, your real-world experience will add depth and perspective. Even if you’re shy about going back to school, online courses offer a layer of anonymity. And attaining your degree provides the opportunity to interact with people who share similar interests, relieving the isolation and boredom seniors often feel.
Returning students show a determination and perseverance that sets an admirable example for the younger generation. And personally, you know you’ve gained the maturity, discipline and responsibility to get the job done.
Managing finances in your senior years can be tricky. But investing in education always pays off. An online degree can be much cheaper than on-campus classes, and online course materials generally cost less.
Every state has some form of financial help for seniors. Some schools offer seniors free courses or reduced tuition. And most states require public institutions to offer free or discounted tuition to senior residents (qualifications, including minimum age and income level, vary).
Leftover funds in education savings accounts you set up for your kids sometimes can be used for your own education expenses. And school financial-aid offices can help you navigate private and government loans, grants and scholarships – many of which were created just for seniors.
And don’t forget federal tax credits for education: The American opportunity tax credit provides as much as $2,500 a year, and the lifetime learning credit is worth up to $2,000 annually.
When it comes to brain function, “use it or lose it” is true. Keeping mentally active helps maintains brain skills, including thinking, reasoning and problem-solving. And continued learning can slow the progression of conditions that affect the brain, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Research has shown that brain cells can continue to grow late in life. New experiences stimulate that growth, keeping your brain healthy and sharp. Brain games like crossword puzzles are not enough. A study of adults aged 60 to 90 found that more mentally challenging and demanding tasks have a greater impact on memory improvement.
Lifelong learning has psychological benefits, as well. Pursuing a meaningful goal gives you purpose, promotes happiness, builds self-confidence and satisfies intellectual curiosity.
Bottom line: You’re never too old to learn new things. Even indulging in courses for fun is beneficial. Learn another language before that trip, take a computer course and impress your grandkids, tackle money management to better your financial future or study nutrition to improve your health.
Most things get harder with age. But getting your degree online is easier than ever. Whether you want to transition to a second career, impact the world through skilled volunteer work or attain personal growth and satisfaction, it’s time to put yourself at the head of the class. You won’t regret it.