This fall, young people aren’t the only ones who are going back to school. Many colleges and universities have made it easier for older folks to get a degree, and retirees across the country are taking advantage.
People aged 65 and older currently make up a little more than 13 percent of the U.S. population and as the Baby Boomers age into senior-dom, that number will surely rise.
While retirement may bring the promise of a warmer climate and all-day golf outings, many seniors are opting to go back to school either for their own personal enrichment or to work towards a degree.
According to an article recently published in the Chicago Tribune, Shimer College, is opening up it’s classrooms to people over the age of 60 for free. A small liberal arts school in Chicago, the hundred or so students at Shimer have the option to participate in a Great Books program that includes the works of Shakespeare, Kafka, Marx, Einstein, and Nietzsche.
“One of the things that is important to make that happen is to have a lot of different perspectives in the classroom,” said Shimer spokeswoman Isabella Winkler. “It is always valuable to have generational differences. We wanted to open the classes to senior residents who might have a desire to get involved in this sort of conversation. It would benefit our students as well.”
Shimer isn’t the only college that sees the benefit in class discussions having generational differences. All of the public universities and colleges in Texas now offer a tuition reduction program for people 55 or older. And the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board provides a tuition exemption for Texas residents who are older than 65 years of age and want to audit classes at a public university. Aside from having to be a Texas resident and enroll at a participating university, this program requires that seniors “enroll in a class that is not already filled with students who are paying full price for their courses. (If the class is too small to accommodate both regular students and senior citizens, the regular students must be given priority.)”
A similar program is offered at on both campuses of Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton and Jupiter) called the Lifelong Learning Society. The program was created in 1980 in Boca Raton and then extended to the Jupiter campus in 1997. The LLS program is offered from October through June and FAU professors teach all the courses, which range in subjects from foreign policy, music, art, philosophy, current events, and more.
According to the FAU website, “This community of learners with no age threshold enjoys a diverse and creative curriculum, along with concerts and entertainment. In establishing this program, FAU recognized the still unfulfilled demand for educational and intellectual stimulation for adults who are beyond the traditional university years.”
And in the entire state of California, you can attend one of the 23 state universities for free, regardless of income, through their Over 60 Program. Of the roughly 433,000 students who attend a public university in California, only about 1000 of them are participants in the Over 60 Program.
In a blog post on the San Jose State University website, Timothy Fitzgerald, 67, who, while living on Social Security and disability benefits has completed five degrees and three Master’s degrees at SJSU, was quoted as saying:
“I see it as a benefit that the state can offer older citizens, helping us pursue a life of the mind. I never would have had an opportunity to go to school unless there was support for tuition. I do not want to sit on the sidelines.”
And thanks to the many public programs that promote education for older adults, no one has to sit on the sidelines during their post-retirement years.
To see what your state might have to offer check out the Senior Citizen Guide for College blog.