People over 60 can take college classes for free, and one local resident isn’t letting that opportunity go to waste.
Wisconsin residents over the age of 60 can audit classes at any of the University of Wisconsin’s campuses for free. Auditors sit in on class, but they don’t have to do homework or take exams, nor do they receive a grade or credit.
At 82 years old, Mequon resident Sue Kimmel reports she has audited about 76 classes at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee over the past 19 years.
In classes filled with 20-year-olds, Sue always does the readings and participates in class discussions. This semester, she’s taking Chinese painting and a 400-level course about women in politics. Sixty-one years after her college graduation, sue is taking college courses every semester.
“It’s just a wonderful way to keep learning and to try to keep my mind active,” Sue said.
Even without required homework, Sue does have to fit courses around her busy schedule. Because she always has a “hot bridge game” on Mondays, she only ever signs up for classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Sue said she’s met lots of interesting people through her classes, and her younger classmates always say ‘hello’ if she runs into them around town.
There were 138 senior guest auditors during the Spring 2021 semester at UWM, according to the school.
Sue has audited a number of classes in the Jewish Studies department. Last semester, she took “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.” She also took a course called “Representing the Holocaust in Words and Images,” where she said she was the only Jew in the class.
“It’s been a really positive intergenerational conversation,” said Professor Rachel Baum, deputy director of the Sam & Helen Stahl Center of Jewish Studies. “It’s been really helpful for younger students to hear some of the experiences of older students who may have experienced more antisemitism.”
With a degree from Tulane in sociology and English, Sue has enjoyed taking a larger variety of classes as an auditor. In her Jewish Studies classes, Sue said she’s been able to connect the material to her family. Her daughter lives in Israel and became orthodox as an adult.
Sue’s late husband Joel also audited classes, and the two took some courses together. Joel also attended with three dear friends. He kept going to classes up until two months before he died. “I really think it helped keep him going,” Sue said.
Sue’s grandchildren, Marty and Elliot Kimmel, have helped Sue with technology, which has been a nice thing.
“I would urge anybody over 60 to sign up as an auditor,” she said. “Learning should be a lifelong project.”
Those interested in auditing classes can visit the “senior guest auditor” page of the campus website at which they wish to audit, where they can fill out a short application.
* * *
Learn more about Wisconsin’s “Senior Guest Auditors” program:
- University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee: UWM.edu or 414-229-4672
- University of Wisconsin in Madison: Visit Acsss.wisc.edu/senior-guest-auditors
- University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh: Email Admissions@Uwosh.edu or call 920–424-3164.