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Lifelong Learning With No Tuition

Ohio residents 60+ can audit classes in all public colleges and universities

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Pete Bidinger, 71, of Gahanna, looks at maps of Asia for a history class he is taking at Ohio State University. People 60-plus may audit classes at public colleges and universities tuition-free. — Photo by Maddie MacGarvey

Pete Bidinger hasn't found a history course he doesn't like.

Bidinger, 71, of Gahanna, attends a course on the history of the Balkan countries tuition-free, thanks to Program 60, Ohio State University's lifelong learning opportunity for older adults.

See also: Community colleges can lead to new careers.

Once a week, he and a dozen typical college-age students meet with their professor. Every quarter, he discovers something new.

"Just this past summer, I couldn't name the countries that form Central Asia," Bidinger said. "Now I know the traditions of those countries from Columbus' time."

Bidinger, who retired in 2003 after a career in network development and management, has attended classes on a variety of topics, including German language and computer science, and has studied the history and religions of several countries.

Under Ohio law, residents 60 and older can audit classes for free at 13 public universities and 23 community colleges, space permitting, with the professor's approval. Courses may be audited at more than four dozen branch campuses as well.

Registration methods and even the name of the program may vary from one college to another. Most schools have information on their websites and offer help by phone and in person.

Once enrolled, students in the lifelong learning program can take full advantage of the classroom experience, completing as much or as little of the course assignments as they choose. Students who audit courses are usually not required to buy books, but they may be required to pay registration, parking and other fees.

They don't earn credits toward a degree, but participants and professors say it's rewarding for everyone.

Ohio State associate professor Alan Beyerchen had his first experience with Program 60 students in a course he taught about the Holocaust. The students shared their experiences with younger classmates, adding depth and context to class discussions.

That was in 1990, and Beyerchen has welcomed Program 60 students to his history classes ever since.

Next: Lifelong learners in Toledo and Cincinnati >>

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