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5 Colleges Helping Seniors Start New Careers



Live and learn — and keep learning. That’s the way it is for a lot of folks, even after they’ve moved on from their careers and move into their 50s, 60s and beyond.

Maybe it’s to gain new knowledge and skills to find a more rewarding job or career, or maybe it’s just to learn new things and make new connections.

Whatever the motivation, there are more and more colleges and universities creating programs specifically suited for these later learners. They are generally up to a year in length, with myriad opportunities to take a wide variety of college courses, interact with cohorts and engage with faculty.

Here’s a look at some of the more established programs across the U.S., followed by a couple more options if this type of program isn’t for you.

1. University of Connecticut

Encore!Connecticut helps professionals in the corporate and public sectors transition to nonprofits with full-time jobs, part-time jobs or volunteer positions.

The program includes 40 hours of education in many aspects of nonprofit work, including program management, funding strategies and governance.

The fall program begins Sept. 9, 2023, and the tuition cost is $2,950. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and scholarships are available. To learn more and apply, visit the Encore!Connecticut website.

2. Stanford University

The Distinguished Careers Institute aims to help seniors “renew their purpose, build community, and recalibrate wellness.”

DCI fellows participate in four academic quarters with courses available in humanities, business, the environment and many more areas, depending on the “purpose pathway” that a fellow chooses.

The application period for the DCI Class of 2024 will open in September 2023. Applicants with careers in the public sector, “including the military, public education, the arts, or related fields,” may be eligible for financial aid.

3. Harvard University

Through interdisciplinary academic learning, leadership development and peer-to-peer collaboration, fellows in the Advanced Leadership Institute study for a year “to develop a social impact strategy focused on their issue of choice.”

That strategy could take the form of a program, an organization, a foundation, a campaign for a cause or public office. The program runs January through December and costs the same as a year of graduate school, which for 2022-23 was $52,456. Financial aid may be available for those with a full career in government, nonprofit or military service.

4. University of Texas at Austin

In the year-long Tower Fellows program, fellows take up to four courses per semester, have behind-the-scenes access to campus museums, research collections and libraries, and connect with professors and alumni.

The program is designed to help midlife workers plan their next life’s phase. You can start the program in either fall or spring, with admissions conducted on a rolling basis, and it costs $60,000.

5. University of Notre Dame

The Inspired Leadership Initiative helps people become a “force for good in their communities” in the next phase of their lives.

Participants take classes for an academic year with a curriculum tailored to the individual ILI member. If selected, participants begin the program in August. The cost for those starting in 2023 is $58,000.

Lifelong learning programs

If the prestigious — and expensive — programs we’ve already discussed aren’t what you’re looking for, many schools also offer more affordable lifelong learning programs.

For instance, Aquinas College, a liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan, offers the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, with its mission “to foster accessible lifelong learning, individual growth, and social connection for learners age 50+.”

The academic year goes from September through June and classes, which are usually only one or two days in length, cost either $14 or $17 each, depending on your paid membership level. Scholarships are available.

That’s just one of 125 Osher Lifelong Learning Institute programs across the country, and there is “considerable variation” between programs at different schools, the Osher Foundation says.


Not an educational institution, this nonprofit organization matches seasoned professionals with social impact organizations with the idea that older and younger generations working together will be better able to solve some of society’s toughest problems.

Encore Fellows receive a $25,000 stipend for one year of generally part-time work. You can apply through CoGenerate’s website, but note that there are different application forms depending on the region you live in.

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