It’s never too late for seniors to learn
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Dec 23, 2011 | 1924 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LEARNING ABOUT SOLAR PANELS, from left, are John Hondulas of Knoxville and Richard Rutledge of Niota in a class at Cleveland State Community College. Both were able to take classes as part of a statewide program that allows those 60 or older to audit public higher education courses for free.  Banner photo, JOYANNA WEBER
LEARNING ABOUT SOLAR PANELS, from left, are John Hondulas of Knoxville and Richard Rutledge of Niota in a class at Cleveland State Community College. Both were able to take classes as part of a statewide program that allows those 60 or older to audit public higher education courses for free. Banner photo, JOYANNA WEBER
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Bradley County residents 60 years old or older can audit classes for free at Cleveland State Community College.

“For all of public higher education in Tennessee there is a senior citizen discount available for those persons who are 60 or older,” Vice President for Academic Affairs Jerry Faulkner said. “They can audit any class for free, and if they want to take it for credit once they reach 65 it’s $70 a semester. They can take as many classes as they want to in that semester.”

The application process for these students is the same as for any other student, except they cannot register until the first day of classes.

Faulkner said students can still usually get into the classes they want.

The school is seeing an increasing number of these nontraditional students take classes for credit.

Many of these students have retired from successful careers, but want to get a degree in a different area of study.

“We find a lot of people that have the idea to come back and do something that is a little more socially conscious. Education or health care, social work or something like that — feeling that they can give back to society, give back to the community,” Faulkner said.

Faulkner said it is hard to determine how many of these students pursue degree or certificate programs, but a “fair number of them do.” Although student John Hondulas of Knoxville is not taking classes for credit, a desire to give is at the root of his attendance.

“I wanted to learn more about the solar industry,” he said.

Hondulas attended the class in preparation for a trip to the Dominican Republic to install solar panels in a village there.

According to Hondulas, Cleveland State is the only school in the area offering this type of training.

“As far as I am concerned it is a real gift to the community,” Hondulas said. “I travel 83 miles to get here and its well worth the trip.”

Nontraditional students such as Hondulas usually audit one or two classes a semester. Those pursuing a degree will usually enroll as full-time students.

“Our art classes are quite popular, as are our literature classes,” Faulkner said.

He explained Cleveland State probably has a class or continuing education course for almost everyone. Continuing ed classes range from cake making to photography, and neither discounts or college credit are offered. Many students audit classes simply to increase their knowledge in a subject.

“I don’t need the degree. My living is made, I just need to get the knowledge,” Richard Rutledge of Niota said.

Rutledge said he started taking classes on heating and air conditioning so he could install “a water source heat pump in my house.”

“I really appreciate the chance to come to school [at CSCC],” Rutledge said.

Rutledge and Hondulas were classmates for the class on solar panels.

Rutledge said he is interested in converting his house to solar energy. He said a TVA reimbursement program would have the program pay for itself in about seven years.

“What we often see is that they have such a wealth of experience that they become a main contributor in the class. They can share their real-life experiences with the students, and they become a real resource, a real asset to have those folks in our classes,” Faulkner said.

Some students also participate in the college’s extracurricular activities such as its choirs.

Registration on the first day of class is held in the administration building and the students go through a brief online orientation. They can also meet with an adviser that day.

Those interested in attending classes can begin the application process by contacting CSCC at 472-7141.