Older Students Find There's Still A Lot To Learn In Class

February 12, 1992|By June Kurtz | June Kurtz,Contributing writer

A story in Wednesday's edition, headlined "Older students find there's still a lot to learn in class," should have said the class fee forsenior citizens at Carroll Community College is $20 per course.

It's never too late to learn.

At least that's what three Carroll women who have gone back to college believe.

"I took a year leave without pay before I retired, to decide what I was going to do when I grew up," said Joan F. Taylor, 57, a religious studies major who's on the dean's list at Western Maryland College in Westminster.

"For the first time in my life, I had the freedom to go back to school," said Taylor, who dropped out of a strict, all-girls Catholic college to get married and raise six children. While she is considering doing pastoral counseling, primarily she returned to school for personal enrichment.

For Taylor, who is using her retirement savings to pay tuition, the education at Western Maryland is worth the cost, she said.

The school considers students 25 years and older to be "non-traditional" students and offers them a reduced tuition rate, said Yvonne Washington, assistant director of financial aid.

Instead of the $417 the school charges per undergraduate credit, non-traditional students pay the graduate rate of$156 per credit for the first 15 credits taken, Washington said. However the remaining 105 credits needed for graduation are full price, she said.

That policy will change this summer, said Joyce Muller of WMC's public affairs office. Non-traditional students will be charged half the undergraduate credit price starting next semester.

Carroll Community College charges $20 per credit for people over 60, said Pattie Woods, cashier at the school. Senior citizens also are charged a $5 registration fee, a $2 activity fee per credit and $10 application fee for first-time students.

That is the deal Lillian M. Osten, a 65-year-old Silver Run resident, chose to take advantage of.

"I looked forward to turning 60, so I could take the courses I wanted," Osten said. "Years ago I would have liked to (go to college), butI never had the opportunity.

"It's not that it's going to furthera job opportunity, because at my age I don't want a job," said Osten, a fine arts major. "You're always hungry for knowledge of your craft."

Although Osten took adult education classes 20 years ago, she was not able to complete her studies, she said.

"You get away fromit, raising a family or what not," she said. "I like the idea of going and really seeing if I can do it."

So far, these women are not only doing it, they're doing it well.

"I carry a 4.0," Osten said..

Dot J. Myers, 58, took courses last spring free at Western Maryland because of her position as a secretary at the school's theater, art and music department, she said. But with the full-time job, it took organization and discipline to manage her course load, she said.

"After working all day, you want to hit the couch and watch television," said Myers, an art history and studio art major. "What you do is you give up television."

One of Taylor's first lessons was on how -- and where -- to study, she said.

"I had gotten out of the habit of really studying," she said. "I study just as hard, if not harder, than I did back then. When it was too noisy (at home), I would go down to the commuters' lounge."

Before exams, the studying was even more intense, she said.

"When it was near a midterm or a final Iwas taking my 3-by-5 cards with me everywhere I went," Taylor said. "I was studying practically all the time. I go to bed with the stuff."

Taylor and Myers admitted they had some reservations about returning to school.

"I was a little apprehensive at first, as far as fitting in with other students -- young students," Myers said. But "you don't feel like an outcast at all."

Taylor agreed.

"Even though I was a grandmother to most of the people there, I didn't feel toostrange. They didn't seem to pay any attention to the fact that I was older."

Her most difficult task spring semester was passing a math-proficiency class, Taylor said.

"Way back when I was in school,that was not considered a feminine thing," she said.

But with thehelp of her husband, who took the class on a non-credit basis so he could help her, Taylor managed to pass.

"The satisfaction that comes from having passed that -- I can't tell you what it did for me," she said. "It gives me a tremendous boost to see that I can do it if Ireally put my mind to it.

"It sounds silly that your self-worth depends on that," Taylor said. But "I accomplished something I didn't really think I could."

Osten has been avoiding fulfilling her mathrequirement, by taking courses within her major, she said.

"I like math, I just like art better," Osten said. "I'm running out of art classes."

Although she loves being a part of the world of academia, Osten said she has difficulty carrying her art supplies back and forth to class.

"Walking from the parking lot with all the paraphernalia we have to carry -- it's terrible sometimes," she said. "It wouldn't be so bad if you were just carrying a few books, but when you'rein art classes you have canvases and other material."

But the problem did not stop Osten for long. She followed the lead of other art students and bought a metal luggage cart to carry her canvases and other materials.

At a rate of about two classes a semester, Taylor doesn't know when she'll receive her degree. But that doesn't worry her.

"I don't know if I'm going to be 65 before I graduate, but I'm going to be 65 anyway so I might as well have that degree," Taylor said.

"For me, this is following my bliss," she said. "This is something that fulfills me and opens doors for me and who knows where it will lead. This is my thing and I feel if you can do it, go for it."

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