The New York Times has caught up to me. Well, not just me, but to several of us in higher education who are exploring the idea that colleges and universities should market themselves to senior citizens.
The Times piece is actually pretty solid. It covers a series of good points, like changing up some academic structures to better address seniors: “One idea was to offer older students college credits for work and life experience as a way to reduce the number of classes needed for a degree.” (Note that this is already in play for adult learners, a population curiously absent from the article)
The reasons are pretty clear. Seniors often are interested in reskilling for new careers. The number of seniors is growing. And retirement is sometimes not what it was supposed to be:
A survey by PNC Financial Services found that more than half of retirees 70 or younger retired before they had originally intended; 40 percent did so because of health-related issues and 26 percent because of layoffs, forced early retirement or other issues with their employers.
There’s also the alumni angle:
“If I were advising universities on ways to increase revenue, I would target boomers, seniors and retirees, particularly alumni, with information on being able to audit certain classes and then try to convert them to pay for additional courses,” said Art Koff, founder of the website RetiredBrains.com.
Watch this trend.
Something Colgate University has recognized also. Alumni have been involved in Professors Brice and Pinchin’s Living Writers course for a few years, and more recently with Prof. Karen Harpp’s The Advent of the Atomic Bomb course.
Very smart, Sarah, especially since I bet your alumni matter a great deal to Colgate, both as donors and as ongoing members of the community.
Have you had success reaching the over-60 alumni population?
I’m not directly involved, but can ask those that are – stay tuned…..
Will do, and thanks.
I spoke to Prof. Harpp this afternoon via email and she sent these comments along: “This course probably attracts more senior alums though because of the topic. It’s mostly the more senior alums who keep engaged in discussions with the students and stick with the course the whole way through. I’ve had all sorts of interactions with more senior alums that have been really positive, and they contribute a ton to the class.”
Seniors who remember WWII, or who lived close enough to it?
Maybe targeting classes along these lines would be a good step forward for campuses interested in senior outreach.
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