Graduating from college 52 years ago, Jon Jaspan never imagined that six years after retiring from the workforce he would again become a college student through Georgia Perimeter College’s Prime Timers program.
“There are substantial benefits in returning to college,” said Jaspan who earned his bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Yale in 1958 and later retired from IBM. “I’m 73 years old, and in the same way I do push-ups seven days a week for my body, by taking college courses I’m mentally building myself up. That’s a valid reason for seniors to take courses. I also appreciate the fact that I can go for free.”
GPC’s Prime Timers program allows senior citizens (anyone over the age of 62) to take college courses with all tuition fees waived. Individual student support services, such as the tutoring labs, also are available free to Prime Timers.
Jaspan first enrolled at the Dunwoody Campus because “someone special in my life decided to go back to college to complete the bridge to BSN nursing program, and I choose to enroll in her elective courses as her ‘study buddy,’” he said. “As a Prime Timer, I have the option of auditing the class without taking tests or taking it for credit. I chose to take it for credit. We both got ‘A’s. Now that I am back in college, I see no reason to quit.”
Jaspan said the Learning and Tutoring Center has been a valuable asset in assuring his success at GPC.
“We find that sometimes it has been a while since a Prime Timer has been in school, and they may need a refresher before they can enroll in the classes they are interested in,” said Learning and Tutoring Center Math and Science Center supervisor Gail McCain. “Maybe technology has gotten a bit ahead of them, so they may be a little shy about that. We can help them overcome it.”
McCain said the center also offers workshops for all GPC students who wish to polish their writing skills or address other specific needs. For the most part, she said, Prime Timers have little trouble getting up and running.
“I found that age has not diminished my ability to learn new material, including preparing for and taking tests,” Jaspan said. “If anything, it’s better now. One of my peers commented that he didn’t think he could still do that. Honestly, I wasn’t sure either. What I discovered by trying is that I can, and if I can do it, so can others.”
To keep Prime Timers connected to one another, GPC holds a reception each year to celebrate their continued success.
“The purpose of the reception is to provide a mechanism for Prime Timers to share their experiences, as well as inviting prospective Prime Timers to consider the program,” said Denise Rixter, Dunwoody Campus admissions recruiter. “The Prime Timers program embraces the ‘you are never too old to learn’ mantra and enrolls more than 50 students each semester.”
Jaspan said his time at Georgia Perimeter has opened up a new world for him.
“In the fall, I may take beginning Chinese,” he said. “Why not? I took world history 59 years ago. At age 14, it was an exercise in memorizing and getting good grades. Reflection was not part of the equation. Today with the perspective of life experience, I found the course material taking on meaningful significance in understanding the present. For example, knowing something about China of the Shang or Han dynasty, of the life of Kong Fuzi (Confucius) can help you understand and even anticipate some of China’s behavior today.”
Jaspan said that interacting with college students as his peers is a “different and fascinating social dynamic. The first day, our professor had us introduce ourselves to the class. It was obvious that I was old enough to be the grandfather of most of the students. By the time the semester was over, I was just another member of the class.”
Being on Dunwoody Campus is clearly an energizing experience for Jaspan.
“It feels great to walk into the student center, the library or the study lab, along with the 18 to 21 year olds,” he said. “While I’m here I’m 18 to 21 once again, at least in my mind.”
For more information on the GPC Prime Timers program call the Office of College Wide Recruitment at 678-891-4125.
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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves more than 25,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit www.gpc.edu.