Massachusetts Seniors Lose Free Higher Ed Tuition Benefit
So here I am, a golden ager, a senior citizen. My wife thinks I embrace my senior citizenship a bit too enthusiastically, but after successfully navigating 64 spins around the sun without falling off the Earth, I feel I have earned the right to do so. After all, not everyone makes it this far. My paternal grandfather died when he was just 63 years old.
When I was only 55, The Scooter Store began sending me offers to apply for a government supplemented electric scooter. I admit, that was a bit too soon to start thinking about being a senior, but it was an eye-opener.
Sixty may be the new 40, but it also brings with it a realization that your days are growing fewer in number. Sinatra used to sing about the "golden warm September" of his years. You are running out of time to accomplish everything on your bucket list like finishing up that degree.
Once you pass 60, you become more introspective – and you start looking for the deals. The senior discounts. I've already snagged a few senior benefits, such as my America the Beautiful lifetime pass for free admission to the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands, and I've used it a lot.
I also have my Massachusetts Senior Parks Pass, giving me free parking for life at most state parks and beaches, including Horseneck Beach and Demarest Llyod State Park. Sweet!
One benefit that I was anticipating quietly disappeared, though it remains listed on the Mass.gov website. Until recently, most seniors, many veterans, active-duty military, Native Americans, and clients of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission or Commission for the Blind were eligible for a Categorical Tuition Waiver at state and community colleges, including UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.
According to the website, "The Categorical Tuition Waiver is designed to provide financial support to individuals who might not have the opportunity to achieve higher education with such assistance." Eligible parties would receive free tuition for a limited number of courses per semester. No more.
The financial aid office at Bristol Community College informs me that seniors are now only eligible for a discount of $24 per credit for one three-credit course. In other words, a savings of $72. The enrollee is responsible for all campus fees and books, some $2,400 annually. Such a deal.
To be fair, under the Categorical Tuition Waiver Program, enrollees were responsible for fees and book costs. But a three-credit course costs $824 on average, and a three-credit Health Credit Course runs $1,064. I don't know if the changes apply to veterans and the others I listed above, but I sure wish the Commonwealth would make the appropriate corrections to its website.
Why would anyone think that senior citizens who worked to build the state colleges might benefit from a free class or two in their later years? How selfish of me.