Here is an excerpt from an article written by Dave Carpenter, AP personal finance writer, about a personal friend of mine, Pete Shannon. In certain respects, Pete is representative of his generation; in other respects, he really is “one of a kind.” To read the complete article, please click here.
Note: In this photo made Aug. 3, 2010, college student Pete Shannon, 78, is photographed at his home in Dallas. Shannon is among a growing number of retirees who will be going back to school in the fall. (AP Photo/Cody Duty)
Since retiring as a certified public account in 2004, he has taken for-credit classes in history, English, German, Spanish, psychology and other subjects, and is considering taking philosophy and music composition in the upcoming semester.
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CHICAGO (AP) — Nearly six decades after graduating from college, Pete Shannon still can’t get enough of lectures and homework assignments.
The 78-year-old Dallas retiree has taken dozens of classes at his local community college since he stopped working as a CPA in 2004. This summer he studied music composition, and in the fall he plans to tackle philosophy and whatever else piques his interest.
Exams can be challenging, but one thing he doesn’t sweat is tuition bills. In one of many such arrangements across the country, Dallas County residents age 65 and over get up to six hours’ tuition free at Richland College every semester.
“It’s a marvelous opportunity,” Shannon says, calling the college his “candy store.” ”It’s a wonderful place to go. The catalog is rich with all kinds of classes.”
From continuing education and enrichment classes to graduate school, many retirees are pursuing their interests at the college level.
It’s a trend that is likely to grow as seniors’ ranks swell with baby boomers looking to either acquire new job skills or simply enjoy new learning experiences.
The prospect of having to pay for even moderately priced college classes might sound daunting to a retiree living on fixed income. But numerous discounts, tuition waivers and other deals make it possible.
“There are more opportunities than in the past for senior citizens to take college classes and get help paying for them,” says financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz, former publisher of FinAid.org and Fastweb.com and currently with Edvisors.com.
Many community colleges and some four-year colleges allow seniors to audit classes for free and significantly reduce tuition for those who take them for credit. The financial arrangements vary widely by school and so do the age requirements — generally 60, 62, or 65 and over.
Twenty-one states and Washington, D.C., offer free tuition for senior citizens at some or all of their public colleges, according to FinAid.org. The student still must buy textbooks and may have to pay fees.
Two relatively new opportunities offer even more help.
The Senior Scholarships program, created last year as part of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, provides $1,000 education awards for people 55 or older who volunteer 350 or more hours a year. The money may be used for the volunteer’s own education or transferred to a child, foster child or grandchild.
And the American Opportunity tax credit can lower taxes for students of any age dollar-for-dollar for the first $2,000 spent on tuition, fees and course materials. The credit also applies to 25 percent of the second $2,000. Unless extended, the temporary credit expires at year’s end.
More seniors might head back to school if they knew about the deep discounts and freebies — or lived near colleges. As it is, education remains an untapped resource for most.
According to data released in June by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans from age 65 to 74 say they spend 6.77 hours on leisure and sports on a typical weekday, watch 3.58 hours of TV, spend 0.71 hour reading, 0.59 hour socializing and 0.03 hour on education. That’s less than two minutes, compared to 0.46 hour or about 28 minutes for the population as a whole.
Shannon, who got his undergraduate degree in business economics from Rice University in 1953, is happy to stay in school for life. He says he takes college classes to get out of the house, at his wife’s urging, and exercise his brain. The rest of him gets a workout, too, as he often bikes the 4½ miles to campus.
A perfect 4.0 grade-point average through 114 credit hours shows he’s not taking any mental shortcuts.
The rest of him gets a workout, too, as he often bikes the 4½ miles to campus.
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To read the complete article, please click here.