Senior Guest Program Helps Community Members Keep Minds Active
Kent State University’s Senior Guest program provides an opportunity for senior citizens to get back in the classroom - for free.
Similar programs are available across the state, thanks to a 1999 Ohio revised code that says every public university in Ohio must allow those 60 years and older who have lived in the state for at least one year to enroll in courses tuition free.
Darlene Kosar, administrative assistant in the Office of Continuing and Distance Education, assists senior guests in registering for courses and contacting professors. She says that many senior guests enjoy courses in art history, religion, geography and physics.
The courses give seniors an opportunity to continue learning, whether it be totally new skills or advancements in fields they used to work in. Many of the senior guests at Kent State are previous professors, and Kosar says that the guests love experiencing campus life and being around students.
“I think the senior guests really like being on campus and just being involved in a classroom setting. The library is also available to them, and they enjoy using that,” Kosar said. “Senior guests want to keep learning and stay on top of topics, especially those who take a variety of courses.”
In addition to the Kent campus, all of Kent State’s regional campuses also participate in the program, with the largest enrollment at Kent State University at Stark. While senior guests can enroll in classes for free, Kosar says there can be costs sometimes, such as parking passes, textbooks, and course fees for additional materials used in class. Senior guests do not receive credit for the courses, and there must be room in the class and approval from the professor.
Denise Mote, MBA ’81, MAT ’10, is a returning senior guest year after year. She is a Kent State graduate herself, earning her Executive MBA degree and Master of Arts in Teaching from the university. Mote has not stuck to one area of learning since starting the program; taking classes in everything from ceramics, to Italian to swing dance.
“I am one of those people who just always loves to learn something new,” Mote said. “I have just been totally enamored by the program; I’ve taken at least 15 different types of courses, I just take any and every class that appeals to me at the moment.”
Mote says that the role of the senior guests looks different in each course. Some professors encourage senior guests to participate as much as paying students, and in some classes, the seniors take on more of an observer role. Some senior guests prefer to sit back and soak up the information, while others, like Mote, can’t help but push themselves in each course.
“Professors don’t usually mind if you don’t want a grade, but I’m one of the senior guests who wants to be graded,” Mote said. “I’m way too competitive to not get my A.”
Alumna Kathy Lentz is another returning student of the senior guest program. Lentz graduated from Kent State with a degree in photojournalism. Having lived in Portage County her whole life, she always knew about the senior guest program but just started taking advantage of it in the last few years.
“To me it’s the ultimate way of learning,” Lentz said. “I can go to class and absorb the information, but there’s no pressure because I don’t have to write the papers or take the tests unless I want to. It’s a very joyful experience for me.”
Lentz says that the senior guest program keeps her both physically and mentally active, walking to class on days she might not usually get out and about, and disciplining her to take courses in areas she wouldn’t otherwise know much about.
“I like being in the classroom setting, I like hearing where the students are coming from and how they think,” Lentz said. “Some of what’s being taught is about my own lifetime and history I’ve experienced, including Kent State history.”
Mote and Lentz are both taking classes remotely this semester and are looking forward to getting back on campus after the pandemic is over.
“For those who like to learn, the experience is a fabulous resource,” Lentz said. “The office of continuing education helps you complete all the steps to get into classes, and make it easy when registering can otherwise be daunting.”
For more information on the Office of Continuing and Distance Education, visit: https://www.kent.edu/cde.
To read more about the 60+ programs across Ohio, check out https://www.cleveland.com/datacentral/2020/11/you-can-go-to-college-tuition-free-if-youre-60-or-older-by-auditing-classes-in-ohio-thats-rich.html