MARQUETTE - Education can be a lifelong endeavor: Senior citizens can continue learning in many ways, including in classes at Northern Michigan University.
NMU offers free tuition scholarships to seniors age 62 and older who fill out an application for admission and then register for courses.
"This is available for all on-campus courses and programs," said Cindy Paavola, director of communications and marketing at NMU. "It was instituted to help bring the senior perspective into the classroom, where often the perspective is solely that of young people."
From left, Marquette Senior Center tai chi instructor Maria Formolo leads students Rachelle Guiliani, Janet Waara and Midge Mattson in the slow, fluid, graceful movements that are the hallmark of tai chi in a class at the Marquette Senior Center. Tai chi classes are held regularly at the center through Northern Michigan University and are free for senior citizens ages 62 and older as are all NMU on-campus courses. (Journal file photo)
Many of the most popular courses with senior citizens are fitness-related, but academic courses of all sorts are taken by seniors as well, said Kim Rounto, NMU's registrar.
"Most seniors are not pursuing a degree; rather, they are taking classes that they just have a general interest in or just for fun," Rotundo said. "The most popular courses are definitely the health promotion activity courses in swim, exercise and tai chi. Other than that, it tends to vary. Some take things like introductory computer classes, some take an art class, others take courses in academic subjects in which they have an interest, such as history or a writing course."
It's easy for seniors to become NMU students.
"Seniors need to first be admitted to NMU, then they can enroll by working with someone at the Student Service Center," Rotundo said. "At that time, they also need to provide proof of their age."
And those who are interested in taking classes will find a whole variety available to them.
"There is no limit in classes per semester or overall," Rotundo said. "If a senior chooses to be admitted as a non-degree seeking student, they are limited to eight credits a semester, as is the case with any non-degree student.
"Also, seniors have the choice of either auditing a course -taking it as a not-for-credit, non-graded course - or taking it as a regular, for-credit course. This option is available to all students, not just seniors."
The free tuition for seniors has been in place for decades, Rotundo said. It isn't just a benefit to them, but to all students attending Northern Michigan University, she said.
"Seniors have a great deal to add to the classroom environment," Rotundo said. "They are usually excited to be in the course they are taken and choose to be an active participant, setting an excellent example to younger students.
"They also are often willing to share life experiences that relate to the given subject, which helps to make it real for others in the classroom," Rotundo said. "Their perspective is somewhat unique, so even the questions they ask can spark some interesting discussions."
Paavola said the response to NMU's free tuition program is positive.
"The seniors I've talked with who take NMU classes thoroughly enjoy them," she said. "If they are activity classes, they like them because the courses motivate them to stay active. If they are academic courses, they love them because they about topics they have an interest in and they really enjoy spending time with the younger students.
"Maybe the best part is that the seniors who take classes joke around about no longer worrying about their grades - although they seem to get pretty good grades, so the saying 'older and wiser' must be true."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.