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College for Seniors: Classes Help Retired People Learn

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If the term “senior citizen” conjures images of gray-haired grandparents traveling the country by RV or living in retirement communities in Florida, then you haven’t met any seniors that are college students! More and more retired people are going back to the classroom for a variety of reasons.

Some adult learners started college years ago and never finished due to work and family responsibilities. Others are interested in college for seniors because they never had the opportunity to take classes when they were younger. Many already have a college degree but want to study a new field or just take a few classes for personal enjoyment.

College Classes Just for Seniors

If you (or your parents or grandparents) are thirsty for knowledge but a bit apprehensive about sitting next to teenagers in class, many schools offer classes just for seniors. For example, the Institute for Retired Persons was created at Salisbury University in Salisbury, MD in 1980 to meet the educational needs of adults over the age of 50.

Although the IRP does not offer traditional college courses toward a degree, it offers programs that seniors find enlightening and educational. The group meets every Tuesday during Salisbury University’s spring and fall semesters.

Wilson College in Chambersburg, PA also has an IRP. According to The Herald-Mail, Wilson’s IRP sponsors field trips and holds lectures on topics ranging from history to travel. Costs are low enough that there are roughly 300 members.

Local Colleges Offer Senior Citizen College Programs

Many local community colleges offer continuing education programs for seniors and retired people, such as the SAGE Programs for Seniors at Prince George’s Community College. SAGE, which stands for Seasoned Adults Growing Educationally, offers both lecture and hands-on classes in a wide variety of disciplines: languages, history, writing, music, finances, and more.

US News and World Report reminds seniors that many programs for adult learners aren’t well-advertised. Gabe DeGabriele of the Association for Non-Traditional Students in Higher Education recommends calling local colleges to ask questions.

Computer Classes for Senior Citizens Increasing in Popularity

Many retirees are also enrolling in computer classes to keep up with the Joneses—they aren’t technologically-savvy but want to understand the things that their children and grandchildren do on a daily basis. Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, TX has a Continuing Education department that offers basic computer classes for seniors such as Beginning Computers, Windows, Email, and Internet.

“We realize this is a different generation and the need was great to teach seniors who were not skilled in computer use. They want to get with the times. Meeting with them, we see a high level of commitment and responsibility for learning these new skills,” Stella Colmenero, Del Mar’s coordinator for Workforce and Personal Enrichment, told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Seniors are also benefitting from computer classes in Sioux City, IA. “It’s very basic training for seniors to catch up with what their kids and grandkids are already doing,” Garry Coon explained to the Sioux City Journal. “We explain how to use a mouse, how to create an online e-mail account and how to send and receive e-mail.”

College Scholarships for Senior Citizens

Retirees that are interested in enrolling in college courses—for whatever reason—should also look into ways that they can save. US News and World Report explains that many states offer tuition waiver programs for seniors that attend public colleges and other states offer tuition discounts. Most college classes created just for seniors are typically low-cost but student fees, audit fees, or books may be required.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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