Free Ph.D Programs for Senior Citizens

Last Updated on May 15, 2024 by Team College Learners

For many individuals, pursuing a doctorate at an older age can be a fulfilling and enriching experience. The extra years of life experience and wisdom that older students bring to the table can greatly enhance their academic journey. However, the decision to further one’s education later in life can come with its own set of challenges, particularly when it comes to balancing work and family responsibilities.

When it comes to admission requirements for a doctorate program, older students may find that their previous academic record and work experience play a significant role in the application process. While each university may have specific requirements, many programs look for candidates who have a strong background in their field of study, as well as relevant work experience. Additionally, letters of recommendation, personal statements, and standardized test scores may also be required as part of the application process.

In order to successfully navigate the admission process for a doctorate program, potential students should carefully research and familiarize themselves with the specific requirements of the universities they are interested in. It is also important for older applicants to highlight their unique experiences and skills that set them apart from traditional students. By demonstrating a strong commitment to their field of study and showcasing their potential for academic success, older students can increase their chances of being admitted to their desired program.

Universities usually have funding of their own to offer potential PhD students. This might take the form of a small fee discount (often for alumni) or limited grant for living costs. Or it might be a full studentship funded out of the university’s own research budget.

Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, programs are available in a variety of subject areas. Institutions that offer the best programs typically have exceptional funding, top-of-the-line research facilities, and abundant academic resources. When selecting one of the shortest doctoral programs or easiest Ph.D. programs, request information from each school for more details.

The easiest isn’t always the shortest nor the shortest the easiest.

UniversityEligibilityRequirements
California State University SystemCalifornia residents aged 60 and olderWaiver for tuition, applications, health services, and instructional-related activities
Clemson UniversitySouth Carolina residentsExcludes Ph.D. in business administration program and study abroad-related programs
Georgia Institute of TechnologyResidents of Georgia aged 62 and olderWaiver for in-state graduate-level tuition and applicable student fees
Kentucky State UniversityKentucky residents aged 65 and olderFree tuition for undergraduate or graduate college courses
Northern Michigan UniversityAdults aged 62 years old and overFull-tuition scholarships for on-campus classes
Michigan Technological UniversityStudents over 60 years of ageWaiver for on-campus courses, up to two per semester
University of Rhode IslandResidents who are 60 and olderTuition waiver upon admission
University of AlaskaResidents who are 65 and olderWaives tuition on a space-available basis
University of ArkansasAdults over the age of 60Tuition-free undergraduate and graduate courses on a space-available basis
University of ConnecticutResidents aged 62 and olderTuition waiver at public higher education institutions
University of DelawareResidents aged 60 and olderOpportunity to attend college without paying tuition
University of GeorgiaResidents 62 years of age and olderRegister for classes on a space-available basis without paying tuition
University of IllinoisResidents age 65 and olderEnroll in regularly scheduled credit courses without tuition
University of LouisianaResidents 55 years old and olderExempt from tuition and other registration fees at public colleges
University of MaineResidents 65 years of age and olderWaives tuition for undergraduate courses at any campus within the university system
University of MarylandRetired individuals age 60 or older with chief income from retirement benefitsFree undergraduate and graduate courses on a space-available basis
University of MassachusettsSeniors over the age of 60Categorical Tuition Waiver providing financial support
University of MinnesotaSeniors aged 62 and olderFree tuition at Minnesota state colleges on a space-available basis
Mississippi State UniversityResidents ages 60 and olderTuition waiver for classes on Starkville or Meridian campuses
University of MontanaSenior citizens age 65 and olderTuition waivers for credit-bearing undergraduate courses at UM
University of New HampshireResidents 65 years of age and olderTake two credit-bearing courses per academic year on a space-available basis
University of South CarolinaResidents aged 60 and olderEnroll in courses for credit without paying tuition
University of TexasTexas residents ages 65 and olderFree tuition at state colleges
University of VirginiaResidents 60 and olderWaives tuition for up to three courses for academic credit
Lifelong Learning: Good for Seniors’ Minds & Bodies | myLifeSite

PhD programs for older adults

While most doctoral degree programs last 2 or more years, we’ve found one university that offers an accelerated 12-month online doctoral program.

BREYER STATE UNIVERSITY – ethereal accelerated doctor of psychology in grief counseling. This online program is also one of the most affordable online doctoral programs on our list, offering tuition at $3,500.

More 1-year virtual doctoral programs will be added to this ranking as they are found. This list was last updated on April 1, 2019.

Shortest free PhD programs online and On-campus

Obtaining a Ph.D. is a long-term commitment. Most doctoral programs can take well beyond five years to complete. Several universities across the country offer accredited accelerated Ph.D. programs.

For busy working professionals looking to jumpstart their careers, this list serves as a simple reference guide, comprising some of the shortest doctoral programs in the country. These online degree programs operate in either a full-time, part-time, fully-online, or hybrid format.




InstitutionProgramCredit Hours
Frontier Nursing UniversityDoctor of Nursing Practice, MSN with DNP85
Boston UniversityOnline Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy33
Gwynedd Mercy UniversityAccelerated Executive Doctorate of Education ABD (All But Dissertation) Completion Program27
Duquesne UniversityOnline Doctor of Nursing Practice35
The College of St. ScholasticaTransitional Doctor of Physical Therapy16
Liberty UniversityDoctor of Ministry30
University of FloridaDoctor of Nursing Practice, MSN to DNP35
University of North DakotaPost-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice36
Seton Hall UniversityDoctor of Nursing Practice71 (post-BSN) to 79 (post-MSN)
Regis UniversityDoctor of Nursing Practice31-36
Georgia State UniversityCurriculum and Instruction EdD, Educational Leadership EdD54
Bowling Green State UniversityTechnology Management66
Hampton UniversityDoctor of Philosophy in Educational Management60
Indiana University of PennsylvaniaSafety Sciences54
East Carolina UniversityDoctor of Nursing Practice36

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Fully Funded Ph.D Programs 2024 Online and On-Campus

To be sure, no PhD program could be considered “easy,” but there are certain programs designed to be simpler than others.

Typically, education, humanities, and the social sciences are considered the easiest fields in which to pursue degrees. With that in mind, our list of the easiest PhD programs includes schools and programs that offer significantly reduced residency requirements, accelerated courses, credit transfers, and integrated dissertation colloquia.

The rankings below display schools with accreditation from at least one of the six regional accrediting agencies, and all offer at least one virtual PhD. Online PhD programs were also organized according to the U.S. News and World Report and Forbes Magazine rankings.

Easiest PhD Programs Online

  • UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA – 7 online doctoral degree programs; Tuition: $129.18 per credit (in-state), $552.62 per credit (out-of-state)
  • UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI – 24 online and partially-online doctorate programs; Tuition: varies by program
  • COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY – 4 online PhD programs; Tuition: $926-$1,085 per credit
  • UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA – 10 online PhD programs; Tuition: $460.85-$784.13 per credit
  • NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY –  18 online doctorate degree programs; Tuition: $967-$1,420 per credit

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