UNC's Friday Center considers expanding services for seniors

Posted February 22, 2012

— The Friday Center at the University of North Carolina is considering how it can better serve a growing senior citizen population after the state stopped providing free non-credit classes in the UNC system to people over 65.

Director Rob Bruce said Wednesday that the Friday Center has been tracking baby boomers and retirees moving to the area – trends that suggest North Carolina will see a 40 percent increase of people 65 and older over the next 10 years.

"The question that we have is: What is the university's responsibility to educate this population?" Bruce said. "We know we have programs already that serve this population, (but) should we expand?"

The William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education offers distance-education course and access to campus courses for part-time students.

The state eliminated a tuition waiver program for people over 65 in its 2009-10 budget, a cut that saved the state about $300,000 a year.

Bill Massey Retiree dismayed by cut of tuition waiver program

Bill Massey is a recently retired middle school teacher who wanted to take a writing class at his alma mater, North Carolina State University. When he tried to enroll, however, Massey said he was "stunned" to learn what it would cost.

"It's almost $900 to take a class," he said. "When I found out the meager amount of money (the state) saved by eliminating (the tuition waiver program), it's just shocking."

Massey said he believes the UNC system should allow seniors to take classes with empty seats at a discounted rate.

"At the last moment when an airplane takes off, if there is a seat, they say, 'OK, who wants a seat for $100?'" he said. "I have talked to professors who say there are empty seats in classes once (students) drop and add."

A UNC system spokeswoman said the schools don't have statutory authority to offer classes at reduced tuition rates.

Still, Massey believes allowing older students the opportunity the take undergraduate classes is beneficial for both age groups.

"You bring life experience, and you bring a sense of a role model that they don't have with each other," he said.

He enrolled instead at Wake Technical Community College, which still offers free courses for seniors.

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  • dmccall Feb 23, 2012

    (the underlying story here is that internet webinars are KILLING continuing education-oriented facilities)