MONMOUTH — Wouldn’t college be more fun without the tests, homework and tuition?
Oregon law allows residents 65 years old and older to audit college courses tuition-free.
That means they can attend class as a visitor to learn, but not for college credit.
The Monmouth Senior Center has a step-by-step guide to audit classes at Western Oregon University.
Stephanie Depascal, 79, started auditing classes at Western Oregon University in 2016.
“To me, that just opened up the whole world,” Depascal said.
She’s audited a variety of courses from the gerontology department to early childhood development, and is interested in behavioral neuroscience.
It’s also an opportunity to engage with younger students, she said, and to listen to others’ observations.
“I’ve made such good friends who are in their 20s,” Depascal said. “We text all the time.”
Depascal started auditing classes before the recently finished guide was completed.
It didn’t hold her back, but she appreciates the efforts to make the process clearer.
Hannah Wehr, a WOU student who completed her practicum at Monmouth Senior Center, developed the manual.
“On day one she came in with a game plan for each week of her practicum,” said Barbara Hogan, senior center director. “She was impeccably organized.”
Hogan had spoken with Wehr’s instructor, Melissa Cannon, assistant professor, about the project beforehand.
The guide includes a brief summary about Cannon and states that, through her research, she “worked to identify a campus and senior center’s ability to create a partnership.”
“Overall, I was able to take the information I learned about aging and older adulthood at (WOU) and use it as a way to express the need for change on the campus,” Wehr said. “I am a proud alumna of the college; however, there are many changes that need to occur on campus in order to make it more age-friendly.”
Wehr said WOU is undergoing an “age-friendly” initiative.
“I was able to advocate for changes that need to occur in order for all populations and demographics to feel as though they have a place on campus,” she said.
Hogan said she’s learned a lot in the process.
Before the how-to guide, she wasn’t sure of all the steps — and neither were some of the people on the WOU campus.
“Not everyone on campus, be it the admissions office or the professors, I don’t know that everyone is on the same page or knew what the beginning steps are,” Hogan said.
Wehr went beyond developing the guide. She held an information session and took a group of interested people on a tour of campus.
“The original plan was to do a walking tour, but it was raining that day so we loaded up the bus,” Hogan said. “That was nice too, because we were able to show people (the parking areas).”
That personal tour is one way Wehr hoped to help break down any barriers for people who wanted to take advantage of the program.
“On the tour, I walked them through the auditing guide I created, toured them through the buildings they would need to visit, and introduced them to staff that would be assisting them through the process,” Wehr said. “My practicum was extremely rewarding and the perfect way to end my time at (WOU). It taught me how to be an advocate for older adults in my community.”
The how-to guide is available at the Monmouth Senior Center.