Tanabe adds that adults attending schools that don't accept life-experience credit may be able to opt out of a few introductory courses by passing placement tests. If the school doesn't offer its own placement testing, working adults can save money by scoring well o standardized advanced placement, College Level Examination Program or the SAT Subject Tests, all of which are available through the not-for-profit College Board. Many universities nationally accept them.
3. Passing the buck Tuition bills from Johns Hopkins University, one of the most prestigious and expensive schools in the nation, don't intimidate Alison Cieszynski. A senior consultant at the McLean, Va.-based management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, Cieszynski let her company pick up half of the tab when she decided to return to school for her master’s in business.
"Booz Allen has a partnership with Johns Hopkins, so they not only paid for about $5,000 of my tuition per year, they also locked us in at the tuition rate we started with," Cieszynski says. "I paid the same amount per credit for the entire two-and-a-half years I attended. My costs didn't go up, while the rest of the world's did."
Cieszynski estimates that she saved about $12,000 on her degree thanks to company-sponsored tuition, money she never would have received as a traditional college student.
The book "FastWeb College Gold: The Step-By-Step Guide to Paying for College" reports that 85 percent of large and mid-sized companies nationwide offer some form of employer education assistance.
Tuition reimbursement programs typically require workers to pursue degrees directly related to their current position as well as to stay with the company for a certain period of time after receiving aid. But employer-based educational assistance is one of the simplest ways for older students to get free college cash.
4. Don't forget the discounts In states like Virginia, Illinois, Florida, Alaska and Connecticut, being over the hill can also mean being over big tuition bills. That's because those states offer tuition waivers to senior citizens ages 60 to 65 (depending on the state) and older who attend in-state public colleges and universities.
Senior students who live in a state without a waiver may be able to get around paying tuition if they apply to the right schools. While a handful of four-year institutions, such as Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., offer partial tuition waivers to seniors, the programs are available more broadly on the community-college level.
In addition to offering discounts ranging from 50 percent to 100 percent of the cost of tuition, many two-year institutions also offer low-cost credit and noncredit classes designed for senior students only.