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The Best College Towns for Retirement

Emily Brandon

College town retirement

College towns often make excellent places to retire. College campuses frequently have teaching hospitals that provide medical care to the community. Amenities of the college may be available to local residents, including the ability to attend concerts, lectures and sporting events. Some universities offer free or significantly reduced tuition to retirees over a specific age or provide classes specifically for senior citizens. A few colleges even have retirement communities on or near campus. These cities have a highly regarded national university, according to the U.S. News Best Colleges ranking, and score highly on the U.S. News list of Best Places to Retire, which considers data about housing affordability, happiness, desirability, retiree taxes, the job market and access to quality health care. Consider these college towns for retirement.

Austin, Texas

Austin is a college town that is welcoming to seniors who want to go back to school or root for their favorite sports team. The massive University of Texas at Austin has over 51,000 students and 3,000 teaching faculty members. Those age 65 or older can take up to six credit hours at the university tuition-free. Sports fans can cheer on the Texas Longhorns as they strive for another NCAA Division I championship. Senior citizens are eligible for discounts on show tickets at the University of Texas Performing Arts Center. There's even a retirement community that is primarily for university staff and alumni, Longhorn Village.


The Pittsburgh area has several colleges where retirees can take classes, attend sporting events or stroll through the campus. Both Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh have Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes, which provide classes specifically for senior citizens -- no tests or grades required. The UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside hospital is ranked 15th in the nation in the U.S. News Best Hospitals ratings. Pittsburgh is noteworthy for providing free public transportation on the bus and rail systems to residents age 65 and older. The low housing prices make it affordable for retirees to relocate to the area. The median home price among people age 60 and older is just $142,800.

Nashville, Tennessee

Tennessee's state capital city is best known for its association with country music, but the area is also home to several institutions of higher learning, including Vanderbilt University and Tennessee State University. Vanderbilt University has an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute that provides noncredit courses, programs and trips for adults age 50 and over, with recent topics including American popular music, contours of the Haitian past and the Bible's most misunderstood texts. The Vanderbilt University Medical Center provides health care services to the community. Nashville is home to four professional sports teams and several NCAA Division I sports programs, including the Vanderbilt Commodores and Tennessee State Tigers.

Washington, D.C.

The District of Columbia is not an affordable retirement destination, and finding reasonably priced housing can be a challenge. But retirees who secure housing are rewarded in other ways. Georgetown University allows senior citizens to audit undergraduate courses when space is available for $50 per course. Residents age 60 or over who live near George Washington University can audit classes for $65 with permission from the professor. The nation's capital has a strong economy and the federal government and its contractors provide many job opportunities for those who want to continue to work after retirement. The public transportation system makes it possible to get around without a car, and there are discount fares for senior citizens.

San Diego

San Diego is both a college town and a beach retirement spot. The University of California--San Diego is just minutes from the Pacific Ocean and coastal woodlands. This southern California city boasts year-round pleasant temperatures, so retirees can enjoy swimming, surfing, scuba diving or strolling along the coastline in every season. Health care is available at the Scripps La Jolla Hospitals and the UC San Diego Health-Jacobs Medical Center. San Diego is among the most desirable places to live in the country, according to a U.S. News survey. However, the high housing costs in San Diego can make it difficult to relocate for retirement.

Raleigh & Durham, North Carolina

This area is often called the research triangle due to its three major research universities: Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill. Retirees who live near campus can often take advantage of classes, athletics and performances. Health care is provided by Duke University Hospital and the University of North Carolina Hospitals. North Carolina residents age 65 and older can audit courses for free at North Carolina State University, as long as they aren't pursuing a degree. Duke University has a continuing care retirement community near campus, The Forest at Duke.

New York

While far more than a college town, New York City's colleges, including the top-ranked Columbia University and New York University, add depth and vibrancy to the city. New York City's ranking as a retirement spot is bolstered by several top medical institutions, including New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia and Cornell and NYU Langone Hospitals, both of which are among the top 10 hospitals in the country, according to the U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings. New York's job opportunities and entertainment options make the city a desirable place to retire. The biggest drawback of retirement in New York is the high housing costs. It can be challenging for newcomers to find an affordable apartment.


The Boston metro area has more top-ranked colleges than any other part of the country. Major universities include Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University, Brandeis University, Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern University. This state capital city has a strong job market and low unemployment. Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital are both among the top 20 hospitals in the country, according to the U.S. News Best Hospitals honor roll. The subway system provides discount fares to people age 65 and older and makes it possible to get around without a car. However, it may require some effort to find affordable housing in Boston.


This city of 2.3 million people near the Gulf of Mexico attracts college students and retirees. Houston is the home of Rice University, where degree-seeking undergraduates with family incomes below $130,000 receive full tuition scholarships, and those with income below $65,000 receive grant aid that additionally covers room and board. Seniors age 65 and older are eligible to audit courses for free at the University of Houston. Houston Methodist Hospital tied for 20th place on the U.S. News Best Hospitals Honor Roll. The median home price is $183,700, and the median rent among people age 60 and older is $922 per month. There's also no state income tax in Texas.


Philadelphia is home to several research universities, schools of medicine and other institutes of higher learning. The oldest and highest-rated college is the University of Pennsylvania, which was founded by Benjamin Franklin. The University of Pennsylvania's senior auditing program allows those age 65 and older to audit up to two undergraduate lecture classes per semester at the School of Arts and Sciences for $500 per course. The Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian tied for 18th place on the U.S. News Best Hospitals Honor Roll. The Temple senior scholars program invites Temple University alumni and their spouses age 50 and older to audit undergraduate classes for $250 per course, and no tests or written assignments are required.

The best college towns for retirement:

-- Austin.

-- Pittsburgh.

-- Nashville.

-- Washington, D.C.

-- San Diego.

-- Raleigh-Durham.

-- New York.

-- Boston.

-- Houston.

-- Philadelphia.

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