It’s never too late to learn something new. Those over 62 years of age who want to study history, art or other courses offered at Georgia’s universities have access through a door that has remained open for almost 47 years.
The Georgia Free University Courses for Seniors Amendment was approved on Nov. 2, 1976. The bill, commonly known as Amendment 23, was on the ballot as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. Its approval authorized the Board of Regents to establish a program allowing state qualified citizens, 62 and older to matriculate Georgia’s 31 colleges and universities tuition-free. Since this benefit is not widely advertised, few senior citizens know of its existence.
The University of West Georgia provides enrollment access through the Senior Plus Program, which was recently re-branded as Post or Neo-Traditional Learners. Senior Plus Program offices, once located at 104 Parker Hall, are now vacant. Vital access, which once afforded students 62 and older with an established meeting place to interact with other students as well as face-to-face interaction with staff versed in the needs of the senior community, appears to be defunded.
Diligent searches for program information led to many pleasant interactions from UWG Faculty and Staff. Ava Elefante, the Assistant Registrar, directed initial inquiries to The Office of Institutional Effectiveness, which led to conversations with Ralitsa Akins, Vice Provost of Academic Affairs, who, in turn directed further inquiry to L. Elaine Harper, Senior Institutional Research Analyst. Harper was able to provide some statistical information regarding the Post or Neo-Traditional students in attendance at UWG.
As of Fall 2018, there were 38 undergraduates enrolled in the 62 and over program. The number of undergraduates enrolled in the program remained constant through Fall 2019 and dropped to 36 undergraduates in Fall 2020. Fall 2021 saw a minimal student increase to 43, preliminary numbers for 2023 has undergraduate student enrollment at 36. This information provided insight into why the office space is now vacant. Still, the 62 and over student body looks for camaraderie and a common place for educational and social interaction.
This idea was echoed by post-traditional undergraduate student Arthur Ragland, who will be 81 in November, has been enrolled in the program since Spring 2021. He credits Erika Mitchell, Associate Director of Admissions and Recruitment, with guiding him through the registration process.
“There was a flood in the high school I attended, and all transcripts were destroyed,” said Ragland. “Erika provided a way to validate my high school graduation, which allowed me to successfully complete the registration process.”
Arthur attends UWG as a part-time student and has not yet declared a major because he is “simply enjoying the learning process.”
He loves math and science and is currently enrolled in a Quantitative Math and Skills course. After completing English 1 and 2, Ragland’s professors expressed their appreciation for the insights the post-traditional learners bring to class.
Although there are many reasons the 62 and over Neo-Traditional Learners return to school to pursue higher education, Ragland was prompted by his daughter who thought he needed a stimulating post-retirement outlet.
UWG does not require Neo-Traditional Learners to pay an application fee, but they are charged some fees as well as the cost of any books and supplies.
The curious, the adventurous and the avid learner are welcome to enter the all-encompassing learning experience. More information can be found at: https://www.westga.edu/student-services/calv/adult-learners.php