Presentation on theme: "Rodney L. Parks, Ph.D., Associate Registrar Nikki Hon, Assistant Registrar University of Georgia."— Presentation transcript:
Rodney L. Parks, Ph.D., Associate Registrar Nikki Hon, Assistant Registrar University of Georgia
With a growing number of baby-boomers retiring and going back to school, many institutions offer free or reduced tuition to students aged 62 and over The purpose of this study was to explore the unique experiences of students from the Baby Boomer cohort as they transition back to the classroom at a large, traditional Southeastern university. Challenges relating to culture, technology, and logistics were explored.
This study followed the tenets of qualitative phenomenology, aimed at understanding the meaning of the experiences of seven students participating in the 62 and older reduced tuition program. Purposeful sampling of participants, two sets of semi-structured interviews, transcriptions, and member checking for credibility. Data analysis used open coding and rich-thick descriptions to identify major themes of participants’ experiences.
Motivation: Lifelong Learning Enculturation Interaction Student Interactions Isolation/Indifference Second Class Students Faculty Interactions Challenges Policy: Admissions/Registration Physical: Parking/Transit
Lifelong Learning “ I’ve always tried to improve my mind and, kind of humorously, I say I am here to avoid Alzheimer’s.” (Peter.) “ Retirement isn’t the end of something. To me, it is a beginning where you get to explore things you like. You want to keep challenging yourself and keep involved. Keep the grey matter in the pink. ” (Brian.)
Enculturation: “ I enjoy the college town atmosphere. I’ve lived in college towns most of my life. It’s just an environment I like. You run into all sorts of people from all walks of life. That’s something you don’t see in smaller towns or non-university towns. ” (David.)
Isolation/Indifference “ Most of [the students] seem to be kind of mystified by who I am and why I’m taking a class that they’re taking. I don’t think they really know how to relate to me. I’m like a giraffe in a party of mice.” (David.) “ Some students are indifferent to you. They think you are a spy for their parents or something. I’m not sure. You’re an anomaly and it’s probably difficult for them to relate. ” (Brian.)
Second-Class Students: “ I guess the feeling is that they’re more of a student than I am.” (Larry.) “ I don’t, as a rule, take part in the [ class ] discussions. I don’t know, maybe it’s almost a shyness, like I don’t want to raise attention to myself. If I feel different, I feel like I’m a minority or something like that. I don’t want people to think ‘what is she doing here ?’” (Danielle.)
“[ The faculty ] are a little bit puzzled and then they become very accepting and I think they are glad we’re here. I’ve seen just about all of them will reach out in some way or another to the geezer student, the gorilla in the classroom.” (Brian.) “ I kind of felt uneasy because [the professor] was singling me out in there. I don’t know because he was fascinated that I was in there. He was kind of singling me out. I don’t want to call it ‘teasing,’ but joking with me more than the other students.” (Cameron.)
Admissions/Registration “Say you want to take a class for which there is a pre- requisite. If all you’ve ever done is audit, the system knows you’ve audited the pre-requisite, but you have no credit for it. So it says you don’t have the pre- requisite. So you have to call the department and get an override.” (Jennifer.) “ I feel like I’m explaining myself five or six different times just to get into a class.” (Danielle.) “It’s the bureaucratic stuff more than anything.” “I had to plan almost half a year in advance before I could take classes.” “Transcripts on Microfilm!” (Larry)
Transit/Parking “ If you’re a senior on a tight budget, you kind of get the lowest priority parking because you’re pretty much not going to be living on campus so you’ve got to commute to campus and you’ve got to park somewhere probably far away from whatever class you’re taking.” (Peter.)
All participants professed a commitment to the value of lifelong learning. Participants also expressed positive feelings towards the 62 and older reduced tuition program and the college town atmosphere. Although participants expressed a range of positive and negative interactions with students and faculty, most experienced isolation and indifference. Participants regarded themselves as “guests” in the classroom.
The cumbersome registration and enrollment process was a significant burden. Respondents expressed frustrations relating to their classification status, pre-requisite requirements, registration clearance, deadlines, and lack of contact with advisors. Participants were in good physical health and had little difficulty walking to classes. However, many expressed confusion and frustration with the parking and bus systems.
Economic Motivations Additional research is needed to explore the goals, motivations, and challenges unique to degree seeking students who are age 62 and older. Technological Barriers All participants had a strong background in technology. Potential 62 and older students may be discouraged from returning to school due to a perceived technology gap.
Academic Workload Many participants expressed concern with the difficulty of writing papers and studying for courses after decades of absence from school. Future research could explore the possible deterrent effect academic rigor has on potential 62 and older students.
Integration into Campus Life Participants expressed a desire to reach out to other students in the 62 and older program. Suggestions included interactive websites, printed brochures, and informal get- togethers. Future research is needed to understand the effectiveness of each of these approaches at integrating the 62 and older students into the campus community.
Academic Rigor Participants expressed differences related to course expectations compared to the first time they attended college. Future research is needed to flesh out these perceived differences. Policy recomendations
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