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School Days, School Daze

Remember how we used to protest going to school when we were kids? Sick days made us well and vacations were treasured. Today, the situation is changed and mature adults are flocking to school in droves, aware that schooling keeps the mind open, fertile and active. It's also tremendous fun.

There are different paths to adult education. Some adults are in it to earn a degree; others are non-degree students; some audit classes — that is attend classes without receiving college credits. Colleges encourage older people to return to school because they are committed, serious students, and some offer life experience credits as incentive. In other words, for the degree student, some colleges grant academic credit for work and life experiences. It's a means of recognizing and rewarding the education people gained in careers and personal endeavors over the years. What it means to the adult student is the shortening of the amount of money and time to earn a degree. Check with the Dean of Admissions about the eligibility for life experience credits.

Adults enrolled in non-degree courses take what is of interest to them, not what's required for a degree. They can weave in and out of departments. Or, they can enroll in Continuing Education or Division of Lifelong Learning classes mostly taught by instructors not teaching in the regular academic college, but professionals with specialties and expertise in many areas. Language courses, travel and art appreciation are some of the courses offered by the latter. For auditing, or observing in a course, the Registrar and Dean of Admissions are sources of information. For Continuing Education information, check to see if the local college, high school, or adult education center has a bulletin of offerings and information about enrollment.

Some colleges feature Institutes for Retired Professionals for professionals and non-professionals. Membership consists of retirees interested in developing their intellectual and social growth. Members can teach or give lectures in their own specialties such as architecture, psychology, movies or politics. There is usually a membership fee that varies from college to college. Members can audit any number of classes on campus, as well as participate in classes offered by their peers. Check to see if your local colleges have an IRP. If not, ask the Registrar how to develop one.

Encore Clubs can be found on some campuses. Encore Clubs are support groups of mature college students returning to academia. Social events, including study groups and get-togethers, assist returning students and older newcomers in adapting to academic studies. Forget the "I've been out of school for years" or "How will I ever crack a textbook again?" fear. Encore groups can help. They may be called by different names at individual colleges. Just ask your counselor for the adult support group on campus.

For an interesting combination of vacation and education, look into the programs of Elderhostel in Boston and Interhostel at the University of New Hampshire. Log on to their Web sites for information about their live-at universities all over the world, with one to three week programs. These not-for-credit travel courses could take you to Alaska where you live at the University of Fairbanks while learning about the gold rush. You could live at an Ozark's college while learning to quilt. Or, if New Zealand is your pleasure, studying about that country while living at one of their pleasant universities, can be arranged. You travel with a group of 50+ adults, to distinctive locations for unusual learning adventures.

Book clubs, swap-meets (informal exchanges of instruction among members), classes at the Ys and senior centers can also help adults seeking to keep their minds and spirits alive and active. If you live in a rural area, log on to your computer to search for book clubs, or swap-meets where you can share your specialty in wood carving with someone who is also a carver.

However you look at it, you are in an enviable position: no collegiate maturity issues to wrestle with, no separation from home blues. No hormones to cope with. Only a second shot at cap and gown years in your future.

How to pay for school?
If employed, inquire if your employer has a tuition-free program designed to encourage employees to explore new paths and careers. Or consider taking a loan to pay for tuition. Funds may be available for you to borrow* against the value of your whole life insurance policy. This kind of insurance is designed to help you protect your assets and meet your goals and objectives — including education.(Loans against your policy accrue interest at the current rate and decrease the death benefit by the amount of the outstanding loan and interest.)

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School Days, School Daze

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