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Last week, I attended a University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) concert to hear my husband, the perennial student, sing with the UALR Concert Choir. Those choir classes are the highlight of his week.
Terry discovered the UALR choirs while pursuing a degree in Applied Music, which he received in 2009. His instrument of choice: the jazz guitar. The beauty of his achievement is that he earned his degree tuition free while enjoying himself immensely.
That’s right. Back in 1975, the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 678, which waives tuition in Arkansas state-supported schools for people 60 years of age and over. I call it one of the best consolation prizes in this aging thing. Senior citizens still may have to pay certain fees, but in our experience they are minimal and well worth it. All you need is a high school diploma or GED, along with proof of age and that you’re a resident of Arkansas. Learn more – a Senior Citizen Guide for College.
Our state colleges not only allow people 60 and over to enroll in courses tuition-free, they also encourage it. The University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, puts it like this:
Senior citizens are welcome on the University of Arkansas campus . . . courses engage older learners in challenging and intellectually stimulating programs, and Senior Razorbacks lend wisdom and experience to traditional students in an academic environment.
Terry found this to be true at UALR. Because of his enthusiasm and willingness to take part in all their activities, the younger students consider him one of the crew, and instructors have thanked him for being a positive role model. In addition to performing in recitals, he has dressed up for the annual Halle-boo-jah concert around Halloween every year and joined the chorus for several operas. These days he prefers to design and help build props for performances. His most recent project was a train car used recently in the opening number of Music Man at Wildwood Park for the Arts.
If the thought of performing in public is unappealing, there are plenty of classes that don’t require it. You might enjoy a drawing or painting class or learning more about American literature or a particular period of history. Maybe psychology or anthropology intrigues you. Perhaps you never got around to taking accounting or want to brush up on American government. The offerings are too numerous to list here. You don’t have to pursue a degree. In fact, if you find exams stressful, you can audit classes and just go for the joy of learning.
One stipulation of enjoying tuition-free status is that the young’uns have first choice of classes. Senior citizens must wait until the last day of registration to sign up. If a class is full, we have to choose something else—unless an instructor agrees to make an exception, which they sometimes do.
With all the research findings on the importance of challenging our brains as we age, this Arkansas perk is a gold mine. I hope you’ll check it out. You may find there’s a college or its affiliate in your town or within driving distance. (For a list of Arkansas University branches and affiliates, click here http://www.uasys.edu/campuses-affiliates/).
There’s no reason to ever be bored again or to vegetate in front of the television. A new semester begins mid-January so now’s the perfect time to pick out your courses. If you’re the shy type, enlist a buddy or two to join you. They’re sure to thank you because going to college tuition-free is what most folks would call a No-Brainer!
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