Most UCCS students are likely to have taken a class with multiple generations of students on campus, including older adults over 50 who are pursuing higher education after a lifetime of work experience and navigating the professional world.
Although it is not abnormal to see older students on campus, they are still considered non-traditional due to being outside of the typical college age, which according to findings from the Education Data Initiative is students aged 24 and under.
Three students above the age of 60 gave The Scribe a chance to learn more about their experiences at UCCS and tell us the story of why they chose to return to school.
Jeff Kaschnigg, 70, has chosen to pursue his master’s in social work at UCCS. Kaschnigg was employed by The Broadmoor for 48 years following his service in the Army. After his career at The Broadmoor, Kaschnigg was inspired by research showing the positive effect attending classes had on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia progression.
UCCS’ Veteran and Military Affairs made it simple for Kaschnigg to use his GI Bill benefits, and the large number of military students on campus was a comfort. Kaschnigg takes full advantage of resources like the Veteran Affairs Office, as well as the Excel Math and Writing Centers.
Kaschnigg notes that one of the best things about his master’s program is how interesting and helpful the instructors are. “I avoid online classes like the plague, I want to do everything in class … what a great staff!” he said.
Marty Rapp, 65, is a non-degree seeking graduate student taking theater classes. Like most, she felt isolated by the pandemic, and went in search of community. Moving to Colorado Springs after living in Los Angeles for 30 years led to some culture shock, and attending classes was a great way for her to get out and meet people.
Rapp has spent most of her life on college campuses, between her degrees and her career in higher education in 19th-century American and British literature. She was drawn to UCCS because of the beauty and possibilities that the Ent Center for the Arts had to offer, as well as the impressive faculty in the theater department.
“When I first started here, the other students of a more traditional age really didn’t know what to think of me,” Rapp said. She established, however, that older students are familiar with what it feels like to be a young adult embarking on the start of their life. Her message is that it does pay off to keep going and continue working.
David Herrera, 71, is in his second year of attaining his master’s program at UCCS. Herrera is a veteran from Center, Colorado. Following his discharge from the Army, he enrolled at CU Boulder in 1974.
In May of 1974, Herrera attended a protest in Boulder, where six Chicano activists were killed by car bombings. Those who were lost in the incident would later be known as “Los Seis de Boulder.”
After a career in the electrical engineering field, Herrera chose to return to school at UCCS to earn a graduate degree in history. Now in his second year of graduate studies, he looks forward to using his academic skills to tell the story of the Chicano movement in Colorado.
Herrera has one message for college students of all ages: climb the mountain. It is a mantra he pursues himself every day. “If you want it; do it! Don’t stop, don’t quit. But if you do, you can start over. Get back up and do it again,” he said.
Kaschnigg, Rapp and Herrera did not have complaints about their treatment from their younger peers. If anything, the most common remark about young students on campus is that they are less rowdy than college kids used to be. Suffice it to say, the faculty at UCCS was much more alluring than the party scene.
Aside from Kaschnigg’s experience of occasionally being mistaken for the person teaching the class, older UCCS students are just like every other student on campus. They turn in assignments on Canvas, check their student emails and work toward their goals, no matter when in the course of their lives those goals become a reality.
David Herrera is pursuing a master’s degree. Photo by Lillian Davis.