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Second Time Around
Sometimes education can improve with age.
By Kathryn Levy Feldman

 

It is 8:45 on the first morning of the fall term. Inside College Hall 200, 102 of the 151 students registered for History 128: Europe Since 1945 are eagerly waiting for class to begin. Most have been there since 8:30. By now, they have uncapped their pens, cracked open their new notebooks, and settled into carefully selected desks toward the front of the impressive gothic chamber. They sit in groups of two or three, taking pains to spread themselves out among the available seats. From the waves and kisses blown across the room, it seems as if everyone knows each other.

Around 8:55, the remaining 48 students shuffle in. Most of them clutch coffee cups and look like they just rolled out of bed. It does not seem to faze them—or perhaps they’re not yet awake enough to notice—that the average age of their classmates is 70. They are too busy trying to remember a) what possessed them to register for a 9:00 a.m. class in the first place and b) what happened to summer vacation.

While a) may remain a mystery, any one of the retired professionals already seated in the lecture hall could answer question b): Time flies when you’re having fun. They certainly are. In fact, as members of Penn’s Senior Associates Program, they’re having the time of their lives.

The Senior Associates Program allows people aged 65 and older to audit up to two classes per semester in the School of Arts and Sciences for the fee of $100 per class. It is administered through the College of General Studies, and participants must register with CGS before attending any class at Penn. According to Karen Weidel, assistant dean at CGS, the program has its roots in the late 1970s, when Penn offered retired Philadelphia school teachers the opportunity to audit undergraduate classes for $10 per course. “Not long after its inception, we opened the program up to all retirees, but we never advertised it,” she recalls.

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Illustration by
Gina Triplett

 

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