Going Back to School at Any Age

Don’t let the societal convention that college is just for the young people fool you. More and more, seniors are pursuing higher education. Whether to complete a degree, or for personal enrichment, it is an exciting pursuit. Thirteen percent of the U.S. population is now over 65. As Baby-Boomers age, that statistic is only going to rise. Classrooms are becoming diversified across the country not only by color and culture, but by age as well.

Across the United States, schools of higher education are offering tuition-free or tuition-reduction programs for seniors, with age requirements as low as 55 years. The Shimer College, a liberal arts school in Chicago, has opened their classroom doors with free classes for anyone over the age of 60. This is an amazing opportunity for seniors to participate in the Great Books Program. The works of Shakespeare, Kafka, Marx, Einstein, and Nietzsche are among those to be studied at Shimer.

All public colleges and universities offer reduced tuition for people over 55. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board also provides tuition exemption to those older than 65 who wish to audit classes. Twenty-three state universities in California give free education regardless of income to seniors through the Over 60 Program. The Oasis program, a national non-profit, offers higher education and volunteering to people over 60, with 27 chapters open across the U.S.

These educational pursuits bring an array of positive influences to the life of a senior and intergenerational exchanges are a positive influence on all ages. For example, if an older person is more knowledgeable about politics, a younger person will be up to date on technology and current pop culture. When seniors sit next to younger students and participate in group discussions, they may be able to help put the world in context for the younger generation. The contact familiarizes each age group with the other and connects the dots across the age gap.

Most importantly, scholarly pursuits can help bring fulfillment to seniors who have lost the ability to pursue more physical goals. Decreased mobility can force older people to give up beloved hobbies and activities. Seniors shouldn’t feel that they can’t go to college. If anything, the array of programs helping them get into higher education programs serves as absolute encouragement.

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