Posted 8 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022
Retirees enjoy opportunity to hit the books — at no cost
Linda Kastantin has always wanted to learn more about constitutional law. Now the retired clinic manager from Gundersen Health System has the time. So, she’s heading back to her alma mater — UW-La Crosse — to learn all about it.
Kastantin is one of many Wisconsin residents 60 or older taking advantage of a state program that allows them to audit college classes for free. Spots are on a space-available basis with permission of the instructor. Auditors are responsible for paying any special course and materials fees.
“Auditing is a wonderful way to learn in retirement,” says Kastantin. “The students are mature and respectful, and it is interesting to listen to their viewpoints.”
This fall, 31 students are auditing 37 classes, says UWL Assistant Registrar Victoria Rahn. Since summer 2012, 899 classes have been audited by 405 students. Auditing classes slowed during the pandemic, but is now back near pre-COVID levels.
Rahn says the most popular subject to audit is art. Others are biology, history and microbiology. Besides art classes, most aren’t repeated by auditors.
Retirees like to take subjects that are interesting to them for personal enrichment, says Rahn.
“They are excited to learn, sometimes in a field they used to work in, but just as often in something completely different from what they've done in the past,” she explains. “The option of what to take is wide open, and they take advantage of that.”
Kastantin, who earned an education degree from UWL in 1991, is taking a constitutional law class with Political Science and Public Administration Professor Alan Bigel this fall. She is enjoying the experience so much that she plans to seek out more classes to audit in the coming years.
Kastantin, from La Crosse, and others auditing classes don’t have to worry about regular letter grades. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t expected to take the class seriously.
Those auditing are not required to recite, perform or take examinations in the class. But regular attendance is required.
Audited courses are listed on official university transcripts with a grade of “AS” (audit satisfactory), “AU” (audit unsatisfactory), or “NR” (no report). Before the class begins, auditors discuss with instructors the standard for earning an "AS" in that course. No credit is earned for audited courses, and courses may be repeated for credit in a later term.
Those wanting to audit are required to apply to the university as a student taking a few courses.
Rahn encourages those interested in auditing classes to connect with the instructor of the class they are interested in auditing to ask if there is room available. Classes may already be full since priority in registration is given to degree-seeking students. Auditors are not put on wait lists, so it is up to the instructor to let students in. The instructor will also ask those auditing what they hope to get out of the class and what to expect.
Rahn says it is best to finalize auditing class plans at least one week before classes start. That allows auditors to pick up any materials needed — and can start on time.
Not everyone auditing classes is over 60. There are younger students who audit, at a lower tuition fee, to prepare for taking the class for credit later. That allows them to build confidence in the subject first, and then when they take it again later as degree-credit, they will be more successful.
Also, some traditional students might have started a class for regular credit, but switched to audit the class when they realized they were not doing as well as they hoped. That way they can still benefit from coursework without credit before re-taking it for credit.
As a retiree auditor, Kastantin is grateful for professors like Bigel who allow people to cross off one of the things on their bucket lists.
“Thank you, Dr. Bigel, for this learning opportunity,” she says.
Questions may be directed to the Records and Registration Office at 608.785.8951 or email@example.com.