[Paleopsych] NYT: Active Lives: A Hunger to Learn Through College Classes

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Business > Retirement > Active Lives: A Hunger to Learn Through College Classes
April 12, 2005


    ELIZABETH SWANN was never one to lounge around the house or spend her
    leisure time hitting golf and tennis balls, even after retiring from
    her job as a social worker three years ago. While she has nothing
    against physical exercise, mental exercise is what she craves.

    Fortunately, there is plenty of that at the University of South
    Florida, which is near her Tampa home. At least once a week, Mrs.
    Swann heads for the campus, where many choices await her, from sitting
    in on anthropology lectures to engaging in class discussions about
    ethics or religion with students who are a fraction of her age.
    Walking to classes helps keep her fit and the courses she audits "keep
    my brain from atrophying," said Mrs. Swann, 77, who has a master's
    degree in gerontology.

    There is a boom in retired adults participating in college auditing
    programs, which exist at many colleges and universities. One reason
    for the influx is the increase of retirement communities in college
    towns or near campuses. More colleges and universities are also
    offering auditing programs.

    The trend is expected to accelerate as more of the baby boom
    generation, the oldest of whom turn 60 next year, enter retirement.
    "This is a generation that is already pretty well educated, and they
    will want to take advantage of these opportunities," said Clara M.
    Lovett, president of the American Association for Higher Education.

    According to a 2002 Harris Poll, 81 percent of people ages 55 to 64
    want to continue to learn after retirement and 70 percent are eager to
    try new things. "There are older people who have taken courses and
    parlayed them into a second career," said Rebecca Alssid, director of
    lifelong learning at Boston University. Ms. Alssid said that some of
    the popular classes for auditors were computer technology, foreign
    languages, history and art.

    The price is often right for retirees. Most colleges that offer
    auditing programs for retirees charge only a nominal fee or a small
    percentage of the regular tuition. For example, the Evergreen Program
    at Boston University, for people 58 and older, charges $50 a class. At
    Pennsylvania State University, the Go-60 Program, for those 60 and
    older, requires only a technology fee for computer access and a
    student activity fee. The University of Washington's program for
    people 60 and older waives tuition but charges registration and
    technology fees.

    Auditors are not required to take tests or hand in assignments, and no
    grades or credits are given. Permission to enroll in a class is
    usually at the discretion of the instructor, and so is the extent of
    the auditor's participation. Everyone is welcome to pick up a syllabus
    and textbooks. The noncompetitive aspect of auditing appeals to many
    people, including Irving Ross, 82, a former retail executive from
    Edison, N.J., who has audited history classes at Rutgers University in
    New Brunswick for the last six years. Mr. Ross, who has an M.B.A.,
    attends classes with two friends, also retired, who share his interest
    in history. He said that he was reluctant to participate too much in
    class discussions because that might intrude on the matriculating
    students' time. The real discussion, he said, occurs after class with
    his friends. "We all have lunch together right afterwards and we
    discuss what we learned," Mr. Ross said. "It's a lot of fun."

    Steven F. Lawson teaches Famous Trials: Civil Liberties in Modern
    America, one of two courses that Mr. Ross and his friends are auditing
    this semester. He said that he did not mind occasional participation
    from the older students and sometimes solicits it. "A lot of these
    folks have experienced the history that we are teaching," Dr. Lawson
    said. "They can go back and see the interpretation of these events."

    He is not the only instructor who values the older students. Michael
    V. Angrosino, a professor of anthropology at the University of South
    Florida and one of Mrs. Swann's teachers, said of his retired
    auditors, "Their life experiences add a dimension to the discussion
    that simply cannot be duplicated by the younger students."


    1. http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=VIVIAN%20MARINO&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=VIVIAN%20MARINO&inline=nyt-per

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