More Valley baby boomers heading to college
Arizona Republic
Jan. 9, 2008

Betty Reid

Thousands of young college students will start classes on Saturday in the Maricopa County Community College Districts. So will their parents and grandparents.

Twenty percent of 11,097 students at Phoenix College are age 40 and above. At Paradise Valley Community College, more than 17 percent of 8,500 students are baby boomers or older. About 20 percent of 8,000 students at South Mountain Community College also fall in the above 40 crowd.

For the last decade, community colleges increasingly have been crafting classes to appeal to baby boomers and older adults. It started small at most campuses but has grown dramatically in recent years.
Some classes are for credit but most courses aimed at boomers are non-credit continuing education classes.

The baby boomer generation is past the point of getting a degree or two but they still want to learn, said Chris Hunt, marketing assistant for the division of continuing education at Paradise Valley Community College.

The demand for knowledge among the older student spiked so much that the north Phoenix community college now offers more than 400 non-credit classes, including online courses.

PVCC has a section of classes under LifeQuest Adventures in Learning for Boomers and Seniors. Among the new classes this semester are: Financial Blunders: Lessons We Never Learn, Protect and Prepare Your Surviving Spouse and Bird watching for Beginners. A sample of existing classes include: How to Create a Living Will and Understanding Your Social Security Benefits.

Computers, art and Spanish are the most popular classes for boomers, Hunt said.

Many of the specialty non-credit classes at the community colleges start in late January and in early February.

Joyce Hergert, 51 of Moon Valley, plans to take web design and photo shop online at PVCC. She has taken art classes since 2005 at the community college.

As a result of her art classes, Hergert has won numerous awards and now sells her pastels. Hergert plans to create her own Web site soon.

"My goal is to keep discovering and exploring different things about myself, color and about art," Hergert said. "I want to learn."

Educators at Phoenix College in central Phoenix say art and recreation classes are also popular with their boomer students. They also are asking for courses that will help them plan their retirement years.

In PC's Life Long Learning program, 40 students signed up last spring for a new non-credit class on Social Security, and as a result it will be offered again this spring.

One new class offered at PC this spring is How to Become an Umpire.

"We're going to teach them how to umpire and they will learn the rules of baseball," said Anna Lopez, PC's director of custom training and education. "We're assuming boomers will use these skills as volunteers at high school games."

South Mountain Community College also has community education classes for boomers.

Rob Price, SMCC's director of marketing and public relations, said foreign language classes appeal to the older students. Others choose to learn about personal finance or home interior decorating.

"As the baby boomer generation gets older, they have more time and more money, they won't just spend their whole life working for a company like their dads did," Price said. "Community colleges have always met their needs."

Baby boomers were born in record numbers between 1946 and 1964. From the time they started kindergarten, education has changed to accommodate them.