The staff of Boomerang thanks Jeff Robinson, of the Ohio Board of Regents, for contributing this article.
With the advancements in technology, it's easy to look at a university setting today and say, "This isn't my grandfather's college campus." But take a closer look: With more state universities and community colleges catering to older adults who are returning to school for a variety of reasons, it may not be your grandfather's campus, but there's a good chance you'll see him in class.
Columbus State Community College (CSCC) is one Ohio school that rolls out the red carpet for its older students. "I see more people over 50 who are coming through," said Laura Huston-Hoburg, a counselor at CSCC. "They enroll at that age for different reasons; maybe they're retired, or transitioning to a new career or just trying to remain competitive. So we try to make sure we serve all age groups."
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Huston-Hoburg cited several ways that CSCC accommodates older students. "We have flexible scheduling, smaller classes, reasonable tuition and plenty of support services," she said, adding that other services specifically for adult learners include an Adult Learner Connection newsletter; an "adult learner" link on the school's website; an adult recruitment program through the admissions department and the Good as Gold program, which provides free tuition for students over 60 who want to audit classes.
David Holloway took advantage of CSCC's older adult services and liked his experience so much that he's now an adjunct professor there. The 67-year-old completed a two-year associate's degree program in landscape design and building. "Initially, I was pretty intimidated by the thought of going back to school. It had been so long," Holloway said. "But I was quite amazed. You think as an older person you won't be accepted, but that was not the case. The younger students actually look to you for advice." He was looking for a new career after the company for which he worked went out of business. He always had an interest in landscaping, and he said his wife encouraged him to "Go back to school and do what you want to do."
In Paul Manol's case, it was self-motivation that led him to go back to school at the University of Toledo (UT) for his bachelor's degree. "I started at UT in the late 70s/early 80s and got through my sophomore year," Manol, 54, said. "I left the area but said at some point I would go back to school." He had a lengthy career with the USDA and returned to northwest Ohio in 2007. "A year before I retired I decided I'd go back and finish my degree." His decision led him to UT's College of Adult and Lifelong Learning (CALL).
In August, Manol received his bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in business administration. He hopes to parlay his degree and 34 years of experience in agriculture into a job that combines agriculture, finance and teaching. When asked what advice he'd offer other adults contemplating a return to school, he said there's no better time than the present. "It's like the Nike commercial - just do it," he said.
Linda Jones is another later-in-life student taking advantage of UT's CALL offerings. Currently employed with Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Jones is hoping to further her education to earn a new position within the company. "I'm hoping to advance in my career by obtaining a bachelor's degree in liberal arts with a healthcare concentration," Jones, 51, said. "All my previous credits applied, and my previous grade point average when I attended UT in 2006 applied. That was a tremendous help." Jones said her CALL adviser was "amazing" and all of her professors have been extremely helpful. "And the good thing is a huge percentage of this degree can be completed online, which is huge when you don't have time to go to class," she said.
Like Manol, Jones encourages those considering a return to school to do so, adding that CALL provides plenty of support. "There's a fear that you can't do it, but the staff is so supportive and understands a lot of the issues you have," she said. "There are people at UT who want you to be successful and want you to graduate and become alumni. They're there to help."
Columbus State and the University of Toledo are just two of Ohio's institutions of higher education that offer ways for older adults to successfully return to school. To learn more about individual schools and what they offer, visit OhioHigherEd.org.
If you aren't interested in earning a degree, but are still interested in learning for its own sake, Ohio's colleges and universities allow residents age 60 and older to attend classes at no cost. In most cases, you'll be auditing the class, which means that you will not earn college credit, but this is a great way to brush up on a skill or two or get a taste for whether going back to school is right for you. Find a list of participating schools at the Ohio Department of Aging's website.
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