Ask The Advisor: August 2015

Ask The Advisor: August 2015

At 62 Does It Pay To Go Back To School For A Second Career?

Q: I’m 62 and considering going back to school to get the courses I need for a second career. I’m concerned about the cost and whether I would be able to earn enough to offset what I would need to spend from a retirement account. Is this a good idea?


A: A lot depends on the type of job you want, the educational resources that you are considering, and your finances. Paying for college or post - college education can be daunting for anyone, but raiding your retirement account isn’t the preferable way to go, or your only choice. The good news is that people age 60 and over can often qualify for tuition breaks and even free college courses. Consider:

  • A degree is no job guarantee. — Start your studies by learning more about the job market and the work you are interested in. The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains an Occupational Outlook Handbook that includes all sorts of helpful information about the number of jobs available, pay levels, and an “occupation finder” tool. The Handbook contains a comprehensive list of jobs describing the education and training requirements of each.
  • Experience counts. Job applicants are frequently frustrated when they discover that although they have a degree, they don’t have the experience required for the job. When investigating educational opportunities, look for programs that offer real work experience.
  • Tuition waivers for credit classes. Many state universities, public colleges and some private institutes will waive tuition for older residents on classes taken for credit. While there’s no tuition, you may still need to buy books and other course materials. For example, The University of Virginia School of Continuing and Professional Studies waives tuition for Virginia residents, who are at least 60 and have a taxable income of $15,000 or less, who enroll in classes for academic credit.       Find out what’s available in your area.
  • Audit classes for free. At many colleges and universities, legal state residents age 60 and over are allowed to audit classes at reduced, or no, cost. Those wishing to audit may need to wait to register in the three days before class after all tuition-paying students are accommodated. The college is able to fill the class that way, and mature students can often help improve the quality of classroom discussions.
  • Look for Lifelong Learning classes. Some 119 colleges in every state offer noncredit classes designed for people age 50 and older. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute courses are significantly more affordable than for-credit tuition and no tests or grades are required. The courses offer an important contact and networking opportunity and even an opportunity to teach a class in your own area of expertise.
  • Free online classes. Online courses taught by professors at top universities are available for free to people of any age. and are two educational platforms that team with universities worldwide. Online courses are attractive to people who want to work at their own pace, and who may have trouble getting around to more traditional educational venues. Students can opt to get an identity-verified certificate of completion for a fee ranging from $40 to $200.