Canadian Seniors Can Attend University for Free

Pamela Chan, M.Ed./Editorial

Did you know that University programmes and courses are available for free to Canadians over a certain age? If you’ve never had a chance to attend university, and you’re age 55 and older (or in most cases 60 or 65 and older), this could an opportunity worth pursuing. If you enroll in one of the universities listed above, you will have your tuition and other student fees waived. Be prepared to pay for some nominal fees, like student union fees. Although the information I have presented below is focussed on senior citizens, I will also add a special note about online education for front line workers – specifically employees working for regional or federal police forces.

British Columbia Options

If you live in British Columbia, Vancouver Island University and The University of British Columbia offer this free tuition for seniors programme; however, it doesn’t appear that they are offering full under graduate degrees online.  These universities are a good option if you can attend classes in person as both universities have campuses in multiple locations.

I will be emphasizing options for online studies here because many senior citizens may have mobility or transit challenges that make it difficult, or even impossible, to be going in and out of the university campus multiple times per week.

Graduate Degrees Online (or in person)

All of the universities on this list offer full graduate degree programmes online. I do know people who are registered in graduate programmes, even though they haven’t completed an undergraduate degree. if you have the right kind of professional background, and especially if you can’t find an undergraduate option online that works for you, this might be an option for you.

Online Undergraduate Degree Options

I have endeavoured to seek out information about the full undergraduate degree programmes that are available online. If you are interested to complete a general BA online,  look at the University of Guelph online BA programme.  Queen’s University (my alma mater) has an excellent online BA in Liberal Studies programme; however, Queen’s isn’t part of the group of universities that offer this free tuition for seniors programme. If you have the financial resources, this online BA is a promising option as it includes many course offerings. 

Access to University Programmes for Police Officers

If you are currently working for a regional or federal police force, there is a good possibility that your training programme didn’t include a university degree. In a recent RCMP report, mention was made about establishing a 3 year degree programme as part of their officer training programme. (This would match the standards that you see in Scandinavian countries, for example.) If you are a police officer who has the desire to enroll in a university programme, there are online criminology and policing degrees that can be accessed. Since large organizations often provide funding for educational pursuits, it could be possible to take a degree programme without any extra cost to you. Wilfred Laurier University offers an online BA Honours programme for police officers or retired police officers who have at least one year of professional experience in policing. They also have a combined criminology and policing honours BA programme online. Vancouver Island University does have a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in Criminology. It does not appear to be an online degree; however, they do provide a lot of criminology and related courses in online classes. Speak with the admissions office at the university if you would like to complete most or all of a BA with a criminology focus online.

Don’t Hesitate

University was an expensive and less accessible option for older Boomers and War Babies. Many had achieved top marks and wanted to go to university but didn’t have the financial resources. Today’s student loan programmes weren’t an option back in their student days. Whatever your age, if there is a programme that interests you, there’s no time better than the present to apply.  If you contact the university you are interested to attend now, you might be able to start in January.

More Information

Here is some more information about the free tuition for seniors offerings at the undergraduate level that are available.

University of Calgary:  This free course would be helpful for anyone looking to do a degree online. 

University of Saskatchewan: Write their Admissions office to see if it’s possible to do an online undergraduate degree. It looks like something might be possible. The information provide on their website wasn’t clear on this point. They also have satellite campuses across Saskatchewan, where you can take classes in person.

University of Manitoba: Contact the university to see if their General Studies programme online can lead towards a BA, General (completed online). You also have the option of attending classes in person.  

Guelph University:

Are you interested to enroll in Guelph’s online degree programme? Here is an interesting video about the founding of Guelph University.

Depending on what your educational background is, you may need to take 4 preliminary courses before you transfer into their online BA programme.

McMaster University At McMaster you can do a BA in History of Sociology, after completing a diploma programme.

Queen’s University: As mentioned previously, Queen’s University doesn’t offer a free tuition for seniors programme; however, contact them to see if they offer discounts for seniors and

And a special note that all of the universities mentioned in the list shown at the beginning of this piece offer free tuition for their courses and programmes. If you are interested to attend in person, or pursue a graduate level degree online, any of these universities might be appropriate for you. If you have your heart set on another institution, contact them to see if they offer discounts and bursaries.