Of all the travel privileges enjoyed by mature and senior citizens, one in particular is virtually unknown and largely unutilized, and yet it is the single most valuable of them all. I’m talking about the right to “audit” courses free of charge (or for a nominal sum) at dozens of state and city universities, in the course of a vacation spent in the dorms of those institutions.
Though the housing element of that activity is available, for practical purposes, only in the summer, the free course privileges are offered throughout the year to seniors 60, 62 or 65 years of age and older (depending on the university), who then make their own housing arrangements for the non-summer months in motels or B&B’s nearby.
The right to “audit” a class should not be confused with the Elderhostel programs sometimes operated at the same institutions; the latter are special, one-week study programs offered exclusively to senior citizens, who attend them as a group. Nor should the participation in university classes on an “auditing” basis be mistakenly compared to the special summer programs for adults or adult alumni (“campus vacations”) that some dozen-or-so universities offer.
The “auditing” privileges are better. They involve the right to attend any class offered by a university—any out of the hundreds and hundreds offered—with the single exception of “labs” and language courses for which auditing would be inappropriate. Though permission of the instructor and dean is usually required, such permission is rarely denied.
It is true that most senior auditors are asked not to engage in class discussion, as that would reduce the discussion time available to matriculating students—the ones who take tests and examinations, receive grades and course credits. “Auditors” are listeners, visitors; they pursue learning solely for the sake of learning, take no examinations, and receive no grades or credits—the best of all possible worlds, in my view. But they obviously derive the same rewards of learning, the same intellectual stimulation, provided they are sufficiently self-disciplined to perform all advance reading assignments for the class.
Could there be a better vacation? On a peaceful campus—the joy of learning in the air—you attend classes as if you were a student, but without undergoing tests and examination in them.
How did the virtually-expense-free right of mature and senior citizens to audit university courses get started? Not one of the fifty universities I’ve contacted has been able to supply us with a coherent history of the practice, or point to a single article on the subject. In some instances, state legislatures apparently directed their universities to permit the practice and either waive or reduce the fee to seniors. In others, it appears to be a university administrator who initiated the idea, and other schools copied it.
Some universities restrict the right to residents of their own state; others throw open the privilege to residents of any state. Here is a state-by-state analysis, starting with the state universities that admit “auditing seniors” from around the nation:
THOSE ADMITTING SENIORS FROM ANY STATE
Boston University: The university’s “Evergreen Program” permits senior citizens (58 and older) from anywhere to audit courses for $50 a course throughout the year. Currently, the university receives 200 to 300 senior auditors per semester, and does make some university housing available to them in summer. Write: The Evergreen Program, Boston University, 808 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, phone 617-353-9852, or visit the Web site: www.bu.edu/lifelong.
University of Connecticut: Seniors 62 and older can audit as many classes as they choose (subject to the professor’s approval) for a fee of $15 per semester, space available. No requirement of state residence. Phone 860/486-4631 for an application form to attend classes at the campuses in West Hartford or Storrs, Connecticut. Write: Student Services Office, College of Continuing Studies, University of Connecticut, Unit 4056C, Storrs, CT 06269. Web: www.uconn.edu.
University of Illinois: Persons 65 and older, from anywhere, can audit as many courses as they like (as long as they have the instructor’s approval), other than labs or physical education classes free. In summer, courses run either four or eight weeks. But auditors have no university privileges (housing, meal plans), and must fend for themselves in that regard. Write: Registration Services, Admissions and Records Bldg., University of Illinois, 901 West Illinois St, Urbana, IL, 61801; Call 217/333-0302. Web: www.uiuc.edu.
Eastern Kentucky University: Senior citizens from any state, 65 and older, may audit any course for free, under the terms of the O’Donnel Scholarship and enjoy university housing ($855 per semester for a single room) and meal plans ($1360 per semester for 19 meals a week), along with library privileges. Write: Admissions Office, 521 Lancaster Ave., Richmond, KY, 40475. Or, call: 859/622-2106 (Admissions Office). Web: www.eku.edu.
University of Massachusetts: By state law, seniors 60 and over, from any state, may attend as many classes as they like, except lab and language classes. In order to do so, seniors must go to the Bursar’s office, with proof of age, to fill out a waiver of tuition. Housing and meal plans are subject to availability. However, rooms in dorms — when available — cost $1,536 per semester. And seniors can sign on for a 14 meals a week at a highly reasonable charge of only $1,256 per semester. Write: Admissions Office, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003. Or, call 413/545-0111 to speak with the Bursar’s Office. Web: www.umass.edu.
University of Mississippi: “Mature citizens” from any state, 65 and older, can enroll for up to four credit hours per semester absolutely free, and can apply for university residence halls and meal plans on a space-available basis. One such applicant, in his late 70s, who feared his hearing wasn’t up to par, was advised to tape lectures and later re-play what he failed to catch. The approach worked fine. Write: Office of Admissions, 145 Martindale, University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677 or call 662/915-7792. Web: www.olemiss.edu.
University of New Mexico: Seniors 65 and older can take classes (auditing or for credit) for $5 per credit hour. While they have library privileges, they have no on-campus housing or meal plans. Write: The Admissions Office, University of New Mexico, Student Services Center 140, Albuquerque, NM 87131. Phone: 505/277-2446. Web: www.unm.edu.
University of North Dakota: Seniors age 65 and older can audit classes for free (except art & science classes that may have a lab or materials fee). Although housing and meal plans aren’t available to auditors, meals can be purchased by anyone at university dining halls. Write: Registrar, Box 8382, University Station, Grand Forks, ND 58202. Or call 701/777-3821. Web: www.und.edu.
University of Oklahoma: Seniors 65 and older may audit courses free of charge, but have no access to university housing or meal plans. They must register within the first ten weeks of the semester, and then, only with the permission of the instructor. Write: Registration Office, Buchanan Hall, University of Oklahoma, 1000 Asp Avenue Room 230, Norman, OK 73019, or call Registration at 405/325-3572. Web: www.ou.edu.
University of Rhode Island: Persons from any state, 60 and older, are entitled to a waiver of all tuition charges other than a $25 registration, $15 activities fee and a $8 per credit fee (that goes towards library and computer services), but receive no housing or meal plans. Additional charges may apply to those who live out of state. Write: The College of Continuing Education, University of Rhode Island, 35 Campus Ave. Green Hall, Kingston, RI 02881. Call 401/874-1000. Web: www.uri.edu.
THOSE ADMITTING STATE RESIDENTS ONLY
University of Alaska: Persons 60 and older, can take (for credit) or audit any course (based on availability) free of charge. They also receive library privileges. “Our student body is very impressed by persons in their mature age who wish to continue their education,” says admissions officer Pamela Guzzy. Write: Admissions Office, P.O. Box 757480, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7480, or call 907/474-6300. Web: www.uaf.edu.
University of Arkansas: Persons 60 and older can either audit or take courses for credit, free, and are eligible for university housing and meals if they take a full-course load. Single rooms with all three meals daily are $2,966 per semester; singles without meals are $16.39 a day in summer—a good time to attend short courses. Phone 479/575-5451, requesting an advisor assigned by the Returning Students Association. Web: www.uark.edu.
University of Colorado (at Boulder): At the Boulder campus only, state residents aged 55 and older can audit classes very inexpensively, but aren’t eligible for campus housing or meal plans. Dues-paying members of the alumni association, which organizes these programs for the university, pay only $5 per semester; non-members pay $40. The registrar with whom I spoke recalls overhearing an effort by an 18-year-old freshman to persuade a 70-year-old auditor not to drop a class they were attending together. Phone 303/492-8484, or write to The Senior Auditing Program, Coenig Alumni Center, Campus Box 459, Boulder, CO 80309. Web: www.colorado.edu.
University of Delaware: State residents, 60 and older and academically qualified, can take as many classes as they choose, for free. Non-residents 50 and older joining the “Academy of Lifelong Learning” for a $285 annual charge, can audit one course, attend a separate lecture series, and participate in various social activities. Housing ($560 for five weeks) and meal plans ($581 for five weeks and 19 meals a week) are available only during a summer session of five and seven weeks’ duration. Call 302/831-2741. Web: www.udel.edu.
University of Georgia: Except at the law and medical schools, state residents 62 years of age and older who are academically qualified can take classes either for credit or as auditors for free. They can also secure university housing for only $1,506 to $1,816 per semester if they enroll in twelve or more hours of courses per week. Write: Office of Admissions, 212 Terrell Hall, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 or call 706/542-1421. Web: www.uga.edu.
University of Hawaii: In the normal school year only (fall through spring), residents of the state 60 and older can visit classes, with instructor’s permission free of charge. They receive library privileges, as well, but aren’t eligible for housing or meal plans. They aren’t allowed to visit in Summer. Write: Senior Citizen Visitor Program, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2600 Campus Road, SSC Room 413, Honolulu, HA 96822, phone 808/956-9317. Web: www.hawaii.edu/diversity.
Idaho State University: Residents of Idaho, 60 and older, may audit by paying a flat fee of $20, plus $5 per credit—the average course consisting of three credits (i.e., three hours of instruction per week for one semester). Seniors are also eligible for university housing and meals: $2,650 for a single room throughout the entire year, $995 a semester for meals. Write: Enrollment Management Services, Box 8054, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID 83209; Call 208/282-3277. Web: www.uidaho.edu.
University of Kansas: Persons 60 and over, can audit as many courses as they wish, for free; but auditors aren’t entitled to housing or meal plans. Call: Office of Admissions, 785/864-5462. Or write: Admissions, 1502 Iowa Street, Lawrence, KA 66045. Web: www.ku.edu.
University of Louisiana (Lafayette): State residents 60 and older can take up to 3 hours college credit (a typical class) for $6.75 an hour. Apply as a DOORS student and bypass the SAT and ACT requirements. To enroll in math or English classes, applicants must take a placement exam. For more info or to apply, write: UL Lafayette, University College, P.O. Box 43370, Martin Hall, Room 169, Lafayette, LA 70504 or call 337/482-6729. Web: www.louisiana.edu.
University of Maryland: Under the “Golden I.D.” program, seniors 60 and up, but state residents only, can audit up to three courses at a time for about $178.50, at any time. While auditors aren’t eligible for housing or meal plans, they do have library privileges. Write: Undergraduate Admissions, University of Maryland, The Mitchell Building, College Park, MD 20742. Call, 301/314-8219. Web: www.umd.edu.
University of Michigan: At the Dearborn campus only, the “Retired Persons Scholarship Program” permits residents of the state 60 and over, who must be retired, to audit or take up to three courses for a total of $100, whether they take one or three. About 60 such seniors are currently enrolled, most of them studying art, history and philosophy. Write: Retired Persons Scholarship Program, University of Michigan, 4901 Evergreen Road, Dearborn, MI 48128 or call 313/593-1183. Web: www.umd.umich.edu.
University of Minnesota: State residents only, 62 or older, can audit classes for free at all state campuses throughout the year; they join each class on a space available basis after the first day of instruction. University housing? It’s sometimes available, mainly in summer. Write: Office of the Registrar, 106 Pleasant Street SE, Fraser Hall, Minneapolis, MN 55455, call 612/624-1111 or 800/400-8636. Web: www.umn.edu.
University of Montana: State residents 62 and older pay $29 per credit for most courses. Single rooms cost them only $1,395 per semester; all three meals daily $1,435 per semester. Write: Lommasson Center Room 103, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, call: 406/243-6266. Web: www.umt.edu.
University of Nevada: Fall and spring semesters only, 62 and older, can audit courses free of charge; during summer sessions, they pay $86 per credit. University housing ($365 a month or 6,000 a year for a private apartment, no meals) is available to senior citizens pursuing a minimum of twelve credits. Write: Office of Admissions Records, University of Nevada, Mailstop 120, Reno, NV 89557, phone 775/784-4700. Web: www.unr.edu.
University of New Hampshire: Residents of the state, 65 and older, can take up to two courses per semester (credit or non-credit) at a time for free. Library privileges, yes; housing or meal plans, no. Write: Department of the Registrar, 11 Garrison Avenue, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, 603/862-2015. Web: www.unh.edu.
State University of New York: At every one of its many campuses, state residents can audit classes (other than language or lab courses) free of tuition, policies and charges differ from campus to campus. Library privileges are also granted, but not housing or meal plans. Write to the branch you desire to attend, as—for instance—Office of General Studies, State U. at Albany, 1400 Washington Avenue, Room LI85, Albany, NY 12222, phone 518/442-5140. Web: www.suny.edu.
University of North Carolina: NC residents 65 and over, can audit courses for $20 per course, if they have instructors’ permission. Summer courses are presented in two five-week sessions; but no assistance is given for housing or meals. Write: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 102 Peabody Hall, Chapel Hill, NC 27599. Call: main operator at 919/962-2211, and you’ll then be directly put in touch with the professor whose class you wish to take. Web: www.unc.edu.
Ohio State University: By command of the legislature, anyone 60 or older can audit classes free of charge (“Program 60”), and there is no restriction on participation in class discussion. Currently, up to 200 seniors do so at any one time, by traveling to Columbus, Ohio, for five-week courses in summer, ten-week courses (“quarters”) all other times; obviously, they can stay for less than five or ten weeks by dropping out before that time. Write: Office of Continuing Education, 152 Mount Hall, 1050 Carmack Road, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210; call 614/292-8860. Web: www.osu.edu.
Princeton University now has a re-vamped auditing program in place, called the Community Auditing Program. However, it is only open to those residents of the town/city of Princeton, neighboring towns and alumni (there’s no hard and fast rule to what the Princeton area really is, so if you live nearby, it’s worth a shot). The fees are $75 per course per semester, which covers administrative costs and course materials. There is no limit on the number of courses that can be audited, but only certain selected courses can be attended. To receive more information, write to or email the Office of Community and State Affairs, 318 Nassau Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, 08544. Or call, 609/258-0202; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, visit the Community Auditing Program Web site at http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pub/cap/.
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey: State residents age 62 and older and retired may audit any regular course (no labs, language classes) tuition-free. Applicants must obtain instructor approval. Write: Community Affairs, 83 Somerset Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 or call 732/932-7823. Web: www.rutgers.edu.
University of South Carolina: State residents age 60 and up can attend classes tuition-free, and rent an apartment style double in university residences for the entire year, for $745 a month. Write: Adult Student Services, 937 Assembly Street Room 408 Carolina Plaza, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208. Call 803/777-9446. Web: www.sc.edu.
University of Utah: Residents 62 and older can audit as many classes as they care to (level 1000 and above), for a flat $25 fee per semester (business management classes, computer classes and writing courses excepted). They can also obtain an ID card for $10 which allows them to use the library and computer center. The gymnasium and all other recreational facilities are available for an activities fee of $42/semester. But housing assistance isn’t provided. Write: Lifelong Learning, University of Utah, 1901 East South Campus Drive, Room 1195, Salt Lake City, UT 84112 or call 801/581-8969. Web: www.utah.edu.
University of Tennessee: Since passage of a state law in 1977, auditing of courses is open to seniors 60 and older. They receive library privileges, too, but no housing or meal plans. Write: Registrars Office, 209 Student Services Building, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, call 865/974-2101. Web: www.utk.edu.
University of Vermont: Holders of the “Green Mountain Pass” (available from any town clerk in Vermont), who are 65 or older, receive free tuition for as many classes as they choose, and are also eligible for on-campus housing ($2,553 per semester) and meals (an additional $1,239 per semester) if space is available. “Younger students love the benefit of having elderly people in the class,” says the school’s registrar. Write: Registrar, 85 South Prospect, 360 Waterman Building, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, call 802/656-2045. Web: www.uvm.edu.
University of Virginia: State residents only, 60 and up can audit up to two courses per semester, during the summer sessions and the school year. To enroll, you must obtain the instructor’s permission and fill out the proper forms. Address: Zehmer Hall, 104 Midmont Lane, P.O. Box 400764, Charlottesville, VA 22904. For more information concerning UVA policy concerning senior citizens enrolling for-credit and to download the application forms, check out, http://www.universitycenter.info.
University of Wyoming: State residents 65 and older can take classes (even for credit) entirely free, depending on availability. And on-campus single rooms are available to them in summer at $736 for eight weeks if they take at least one credit. Write: Division of Admissions, University of Wyoming, Box 3435, Laramie, WY 82071, 800/342-5996. Web: www.uwyo.edu.
THOSE WITH NO SUCH PROGRAM FOR MATURE AMERICANS
Several state universities offer no such privileges or programs to senior citizens. They are: University of Iowa, State University of Pennsylvania, University of West Virginia, University of Alabama, University of Missouri, University of Arizona, South Dakota State University and Indiana University (although the latter institution, according to Dr. Blake of the admissions office, hopes to offer such a program some time soon). Let’s hope the hold-outs ultimately adopt the course of the vast majority.
As for such private universities as Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth and the like, we’ve phoned a dozen, and found that none encouraged auditing by senior citizens, with the faint exception of Columbia University in New York City, which drops the charge per course to $400 for persons 65 and older belonging to the University’s “Lifelong Learners Program” and Princeton (see above). Again, let’s hope for improved, future enlightenment on the part of those richer schools.
Free-of-charge, senior citizen auditing at nearly forty state and city universities—is this not the best travel news in years?