Number of older students declines

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first_imgSAUGUS – When it comes to taking college classes, 81-year-old Helen Smith wants to take computer courses and learn to navigate the Internet. She’ll have her chance next month with College of the Canyons extension courses offered especially for seniors. Classes travel to senior apartment complexes and community centers throughout Santa Clarita and don’t cost a cent to take. Still, Smith isn’t sure she’ll enroll. She’s not alone. The number of people age 50 and older enrolling in community college classes has steadily declined over the years, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card In spring 2003, about 207,500 people age 50 and older were enrolled in classes at community colleges. Last fall, there were about 189,000, according to the Sacramento-based administrative branch of the California community college system. Why the decline? With many community colleges faced with budget cuts over the past few years, there has been a decline in course offerings and that has dissuaded some seniors from going to school, said Ron Owens, spokesman for the Chancellor’s Office. He expects enrollment to improve with the new state budget introduced this month. But Smith and other seniors at Bouquet Canyon Senior Apartments on Wednesday gave other reasons. “We are busy and go on gambling trips,” said Smith, who has no plans to enroll now. “But still, I’d like to try the class.” For 89-year-old Ted Berss, the problem isn’t that he’s too busy. In fact, he once enrolled in Spanish and photography at College of the Canyons. But he had to drop out because his Parkinson’s disease limits his ability to hold a pen and write. Also, the older he gets, the less he can concentrate. “I couldn’t do it,” Berss said. Last fall, 340 seniors from the area attended classes offered through College of the Canyons’ community extension and noncredit program. The school, which began the program last fall, is reaching out to the senior community with state-funded classes that include painting, needlework, computer literacy and a global events discussion group. “There’s no reason to stop learning,” said Karen Gorback, associate dean of the department. “Learning is the best way to keep physically, mentally and emotionally fit through a lifetime.” Gorback said the classes provide ways to meet others, have new experiences and learn new technologies. But getting some seniors to try something new can be difficult. In fact, the biggest problem site manager Rita Siegel faces at the senior apartment complex is getting some residents out of their rooms and connected to activities, such as lunch in the facility’s dining room. Some residents are less social than they’ve ever been in their lives, she said. “It’s much more healthy when they’re talking to people,” she said. And then there are those who don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything they want. Ann Berkebile is one of those people. The 71-year-old goes fishing, takes care of her grandchildren and helps out at the senior apartment complex. She’s also a leader for a weekly social class at the center that includes going out to lunch and has guest speakers. Berkebile hasn’t enrolled in a college extension course and says she has no time for it now. But she doesn’t count out learning something new. “I’ve been there, done that as far as classes go,” she said. “Not that I couldn’t still learn more.” Sue Doyle,(661) 257-5254 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more