Maybe the title of this post made you scoff. You’re retired. Or maybe you scoffed because not only are you retired, but how would paying large tuition bills fit into your fixed income retirement? According to an article from CNBC, “More Retirees Are Going Back to School. Here’s How You Can, Too,” there is an upward trend in retirees continuing their education as well as programs designed to promote lifelong learning through affordable pricing.
One of the programs designed to support lifelong learning is the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), which receives funding through the Bernard Osher Foundation. It consists of 124 lifelong learning programs through colleges and university across the US and has at least one location in every state including the District of Columbia (Osherfoundation.org). One of these locations is Berkshire Community College. One couple, Barbara and Ed Lane, have found fulfillment in attending Berkshire’s OLLI program. As Barbara shares in the CNBC article, she has pursued local classes for older adults and she now sits on the board for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College. Her husband attained his master’s in business administration from there and now teaches at other colleges as a finance and economics adjunct professor.
According to CNBC, membership to the OLLI program at Berkshire costs $60/year and the classes are $50 each. As with other Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, scholarships are offered for those who can’t meet these costs. At the time this article was written, the program had 1,200 members.
The program is more than just sitting in a classroom. It provides an opportunity to connect with peers. They even offer day trips. They’ve gone to previews of upcoming performances at the music center and done tours of a local dairy farm. One of the members, Nancy Vale, 87, has been able to both teach and take classes. Nancy is an actress who has been able to continue using her skills.
You can find a full list of OLLI programs here.
In addition to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, other programs have been developed. According to CNBC, The New School in New York City developed the first lifelong learning program, and is the model used for others. Today, the New School’s lifelong learning program is called the Institute for Retired Professionals. It has about 300 students, and members help run the program.
Other colleges and universities who are not part of OLLI, offer their own incentives to seniors. Some offer tuition waivers, and others will let you audit classes for free. If there is a campus near you, it is worth looking into if you want to jump back into learning. You may also consider looking into online education options and seeing what might be offered for senior citizens if you don’t want to make the trip to a campus.
For Massachusetts residents, if none of the schools on the OLLI list interest you, you might consider looking into Harvard’s program, the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement (HILR). Their community of learners has around 550 retired and semi-retired professionals. The curriculum consists of peer-led seminars, and you can design a course yourself! They offer a range of extracurricular activities as well (including brown-bag lunches!).
One other interesting program that has arisen will soon be offered at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Retirees will be able to live on campus in the Mirabella Dorm. This university-based retirement community is drumming up a lot of excitement. Not only will those who live there get the benefit of continuing education, but they will be part of the community with the “youngsters”. There will be assisted living, memory support, nursing and rehabilitation, wellness programs, and access to distinct dining venues on the campus. You can learn more about how ASU is developing an intergenerational community through Mirabella by clicking this link.
Lastly, as we mentioned at the beginning, paying for education might be a roadblock. There are a few ways to combat this. First and foremost, if you are not retired yet but education is important to you, factor education costs into your retirement savings plan. Connect with your financial advisor and estate planning attorney to see how you can make lifelong learning part of your retirement. If you are already retired, there are a couple interesting avenues to explore if the costs are not in the budget. First, examine your savings. Maybe you set up a 529 plan for a child or grandchild, but there is still money left over. You can use this money to pay for your own education, even if you are not working towards a degree. Another option to consider is picking up a job. Places like Starbucks and Walmart offer free tuition benefits. Plus, you will be making money to use in your retirement (and you can fund activities with your new school friends!).
Retirement doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. The old saying “you can’t teach a dog new tricks” is just an old wives’ tale. We’ve talked many times about how you can make retirement fulfilling through side hustles, travel, part-time jobs, and now education. So, reach out to your nearby university, contact Harvard, or review the full list of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute programs. If lifelong learning is important to you, contact us today to design a retirement and estate plan that will open university doors for you!