Prof Educates Seniors About Tuition Benefits
Lucy Larousse, one of the tour participants, was Dean George Griffin’s private nurse for
10 years and was happy to come across his statue outside the Ferst Center for the Arts. (Image courtesy of Claudia Rebola)
On a chilly day in late January, Claudia Rébola led a group of 10 seniors on a walking tour of campus. But these weren’t the high school seniors that you might expect to see.
They were senior citizens from the Toco Hills Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. (NORCs are communities where the majority of older adults have decided to remain in their homes as long as possible.) And they were here to learn more about attending Georgia Tech.
“A law was passed in Georgia in 1977 that allows older adults to access a free college education — but it’s not well known,” said Rébola, an assistant professor in the School of Industrial Design and co-founder of the Design and Technologies for Healthy Aging initiative at Tech. “My goal is to change this.”
According to the University System of Georgia’s (USG) Board of Regents Policy 188.8.131.52, Georgia residents age 62 and older may be eligible to enroll in any of the state’s institutions tuition free. (Enrollment is limited by available space.)
But, according to numbers from Enrollment Services, out of 19,961 students who are enrolled for classes at Tech this spring, only 15 of them are age 62 or older.
As part of her research, which focuses on design for aging, Rébola has ongoing relationships with communities for older adults, including Toco Hills NORC. She regularly attends the community’s lunch-and-learn events to present on topics of interest to the residents.
“We know that older adults are eager to try new things, but they’re very concerned about costs, given their limited income,” Rébola said. “So I worked with the community to organize an activity where the residents could learn more about the tuition benefits and visit Georgia Tech.”
She worked with the Office of Admissions to modify the typical campus tour for people with limited mobility to what she thought was a manageable 1.5 hours. The tour included campus highlights such as Clough Commons and the Student Center and ended at the Campus Recreation Center.
“But about 50 minutes into our tour, I realized just how hilly this campus is and how hard it was for several of the tour participants to get around,” Rébola said. “So I had to improvise.”
She got the electric car that belongs to the College of Architecture and started to shuttle people. (Keeping walking to a minimum will be a priority with future tours.) But in spite of the last-minute change of plans, Rébola received positive feedback.
“The group was really impressed by our facilities and was blown away by how things have changed since they were college-age,” she said. “Another unintended benefit of the experience was that many of them also mentioned that they now wanted to bring their grandchildren to Tech to see how amazing the campus is.”
And the community has already asked Rébola to coordinate additional tours in the future. Going forward, she hopes to work with the Office of Admissions to develop a more sustainable version of the tour that also includes lunch on campus with current students and faculty.
“I want older adults to have a chance to interact with faculty and students and see that they really are welcome here,” she added. “Older adults want to remain active and stay connected, and taking college classes is a great way to do this.”
To become involved with future tours or to learn more about Rébola’s work with aging adults, email her at email@example.com. For more information about the USG’s tuition discounts for older adults, click here.