8 Austin Education Opportunities for Adult Learners

Get your GED, find your passion, take a class, or just nerd out for a night

ACC Highland Campus (photo by John Anderson)

It’s officially back-to-school season – and not just for the Gen Zers and Millennials of the world. All of us – Baby Boomers included – could stand to become students once more and learn a little something this school year.

Though there can be “a lot of ego” around education, says Kathy Dowdy, the executive director of Adult Education at Austin Community College, older students shouldn’t let the popular image of a college student discourage them from utilizing resources like community colleges later in life.

“Once they get here, they see that, ‘Oh yeah, everybody’s like me’,” Dowdy says. 

For the 2018-2019 school year, ACC’s Adult Education Division served around 4,700 adult students and enrollment in its college prep program nearly doubled, according to Dowdy. The key to success for adult students with busy lives is dedication, Dowdy says. 

“It’s very much like quitting smoking, or losing weight, or changing your diet in that you need to be in it for the long haul,” Dowdy says. “If you work hard and you go to class, you will succeed.”

However, many opportunities for adult learners exist beyond the ivory tower of academia too – and a lot of them are free. Whether you’re looking to hone a skill, pursue higher education, or just glean some fun facts to insert into your next conversation, there’s a whole host of opportunities for adults seeking that popularly lauded title of lifelong learner. Here’s a round-up of some of Austin’s best offerings. 


Austin Community College’s Adult Education Division  

ACC welcomes students at all levels. Beyond their standard catalog of classes, the local college offers specific programs for those seeking academic and industry certifications, career training, or preparation for a four-year university. There are also programs that help non-native speakers learn English and help internationally trained professionals find employment. The best part? They’re all free. Plus, as an ACC Adult Education student, you can get a Green Pass that gives you free and unlimited rides on Capital Metro buses and trains for the semester.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Texas  

A program designated for people 50 and older, UT’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers participants a taste of collegiate life through its noncredit, college-level lectures, seminars, and experiential opportunities. Past classes have covered topics ranging from human trafficking to the more lighthearted Wines of the World seminar. Annual membership ranges from $300-325 for each of the five programs— each program offering a different schedule to match your learning preferences. Visit UT OLLI online to compare programs and print out a class pass for a free day of lectures and seminars. 


Laguna Gloria (photo by David Brendan Hall)

Contemporary Austin Art School at Laguna Gloria

The Contemporary offers adult classes for a number of different art forms, such as metal working, screen printing, and cartooning. Choose from courses lasting seven weeks (around $200, depending on the medium) and single sessions. 

Music Lessons

If you’ve never picked up an instrument, you’re looking to regain lost skills, or you just want to improve upon existing ones, music schools can help. Many music schools offer adult-only group classes. Lone Star School of Music and School of Rock are just a couple of the music schools that offer adult-specific programs that include group jam sessions. 

The Actor’s School at ACC

Classes at the Actor’s School range from beginner to advanced and generally last five to six weeks, with Saturday and evening scheduling to accommodate an adult’s often busy life. Costs vary from $126 to $201. 


Austin Public Library

Check out the classes offered by your local branches. You can pick from a diverse array of (free!) classes that includes instructional computer classes, foreign language conversation practice, sewing, knitting, crocheting, financial literacy classes, and job search coaching. Explore upcoming events and classes here.

Austin Central Library (photo by John Anderson)

Nerd Nite

Swing by the North Door on the second Wednesday of each month for Nerd Nite. The free show features three speakers talking about a diverse array of topics. Get there early, grab a drink and some tacos, and nerd out. Depending on the month, you can even meet fellow nerds via a speed dating session before the main event. To quote Nerd Nite’s tagline, be there and be square.


Yes, you can go to the Thinkery sans children. In fact, Thinkery21 evenings demand it. Thinkery21 transforms the children’s museum into a 21+ haunt with a bar, themed-activities, and experts on the night’s designated theme. This month’s event (August 22 at 7 pm) is centered around sustainability with the theme, “Forces of Natures.” Try some food from Revolution Vegan Kitchen – or if you’re feeling a bit more daring and less vegan, you can munch on some cricket protein bars – play Carbon Footprint Monopoly, or head to the Scientist Booth to get all your environmental questions answered by an expert. Tickets are $25. 

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ACC, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Contemporary Austin Art School, Laguna Gloria, Austin Public Library, Nerd Nite, Thinkery21

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