Feature Stories

Modern Education for Lifelong Learners

As summer fades, students organize themselves to head back to school. Many of us remember the days when we hopped on the school bus and sat in a classroom for mandatory lessons. We recall fellow students who finished the requirements as soon as possible, while others continued on to college and university, some earning multiple degrees. There was a pervasive attitude that once you stopped taking courses, your institutional learning days were over.

Today however, even those who have passed traditional school age have many avenues open to them to pursue additional education and there are multiple and diverse reasons for individuals to make that choice.

Lisa Kiley, who is “pushing 70,” has added to her BS degree from the UVM College of Education and Social Services by taking classes she wasn’t able to sign up for while fulfilling required coursework. She says, “I like to pursue my special interests, but not because I want a credential or to make a career change.”

She has enjoyed auditing and taking classes for credit in mathematics and sciences. “Some people seek entertainment by going out to bars or sporting events, but I prefer to read and study for enjoyment.”

Kiley noted that there are many educational resources including at local senior centers and many volunteer opportunities where new skills can be obtained.
Indeed, lifelong learning comes in many packages. There are programs for people who seek to learn new or career skills, enhance job performance, earn a half-finished degree, earn a higher degree or simply learn for fun and interest’s sake. The University of Vermont, Champlain College and the Vermont State Colleges all provide some great options for seniors who wish to enroll in their program offerings.

The process of selecting the right continuing education path depends mostly on what you want to learn and why. If you are seeking to change or enhance your career, then you should explore specific options relating to your career goals. Courses in accounting, medicine, technology, education, engineering and the environment—to name a few—are available for the taking.

University of Vermont

UVM offers over 400 for-credit courses to non-degree students. The careful selection of several such courses can provide the student with advanced knowledge that may directly improve their job performance and subsequent earning capacity. Older students are also encouraged to pursue a degree if that is their desire.
Continuing Education at UVM (learn.uvm.edu) provides assistance for seniors in choosing a curriculum. Prospective students may schedule an appointment with an advisor.

A recent UVM graduate, senior Jessie Bradley, attended college as a young student until 1976, but never finished her degree. She was inspired to graduate from UVM along with her youngest daughter. Although she had to retake several required courses, Bradley earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Plant and Soil Science. A sought-after garden designer, Bradley says, “finishing my degree did not change my career path, but it enhanced it.”

Recently, she attended her first alumnae event on campus. “It was so much fun,” she said. “I’m proud of my education and never thought I’d have the chance to enjoy a University alumnae event.”

Vermont seniors may enroll in an unlimited number of classes at UVM for credit or audit on a space available basis. The university will pick up the tab for students who are 65 years or older who wish to audit a class. The student must live in Vermont for at least one year prior to enrollment. Be aware that tuition waivers at UVM are considered scholarships and may be taxable.

UVM is also home to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). The program is touted for its diverse offerings that include lectures, travel, film and discussion. The classes are typically just four weeks long, designed for affordability and fun. Updated information on OLLI Travel and other offerings can be found at learn.uvm.edu/olli.

Similar tuition waivers for seniors are also available at all Vermont State Colleges (VSC.edu). These include Castleton State, Johnson State, Lyndon State and Vermont Technical colleges. Vermont State Colleges offer a vibrant campus life for those who wish to learn alongside younger students. While a senior may enjoy free tuition, they must not displace a paying student in any particular class. Also stipulated for a Vermont State College tuition waiver is that a senior student is not seeking a degree. Another branch of the Vermont State College system is Community College of Vermont (CCV.edu). CCV has a vibrant senior program with more than a dozen locations statewide.

Champlain College

Champlain College is strikingly career-oriented compared to liberal arts institutions, with a highly successful job placement rate. Continuing education programs in computer science, cybersecurity, health care and professional certificates in accounting, human resource management and entrepreneurship are designed for serious students on a career track. The college also developed The Center for Financial Literacy that is geared toward students of all ages. More information is available at Champlain.edu/online.


Other simple, fun learning experiences are offered through ACCESS at CVU (cvuweb.cvuhs.org/access), MMU After Dark (mmuafterdark.com) or Burlington Continuing Education (burlington.coursestorm.com). While you won’t earn a degree taking these courses, it’s a great way to learn more about computer technology and software applications, receive instrumental instruction, take dance, art, and language classes, beekeeping and much more. It’s also an opportunity to offer your particular expertise or share your knowledge by making a course offering.


There are other ways for lifelong learners to pursue education without enrolling in a college or university. Try Googling “online continuing education courses” and many different options come up. Coursera.org offers a wide range of courses and degree programs from many renowned colleges and universities all over the world. Even if you don’t know what you want to study, there will be something of interest on this website. Ed2go.com allows for browsing through an extensive selection of course offerings. Information about the instructor, a syllabus, requirements and reviews are provided. You can also explore any college or university of interest and examine their continuing education departments. Steer clear of online sites that request your personal information before allowing you to browse their offerings.

In this age of computer technology, it’s natural for people to pursue continuing education through online courses, but specialized forums and websites can be useful for busy professionals and entrepreneurs. Senior Melissa Mendelsohn owns Orchard Road Computers in Charlotte. She keeps herself current by joining forums such as Computer Troubleshooters and the Computer Repair Marketing Group and she follows websites such as techcrunch.com and wired.com. Pick your interest and there will be a forum or blog out there to increase your knowledge on that subject. Mendelsohn says “keeping up with technology is very time-consuming. I read through the forums every day and learn a great deal.”

Local libraries offer various programs that are open to the public. Check your town newspapers for such listings. Free lecture series are also scheduled through various organizations. These can provide lots of information on a wide range of subjects. For example, Elder Education Enrichment (EEEVermont.org) offers a series on foreign affairs, Vermont history, issues and news.

It is never too late to learn and there is always something new to examine. The Internet opens many doors for lifelong learning, and if you want to meet people while enjoying a common learning experience, the Champlain Valley is not short on options.

This article was contributed by Robin Reid.

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