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NBC story about cheap U of M classes for seniors sparks outrage

A decades-old program allowing seniors to take classes for $10 or less was featured on NBC Nightly News.

Baby Boomers are heading back to school, and some of their descendants aren’t happy about it.

While the University of Minnesota’s Senior Citizen Education Program is not new, the policy that allows Minnesota residents age 62 and up to attend classes for $10 or less is sparking outrage and discussion online after it was featured on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.

Part of state statute enacted in 1975, SCEP allows seniors to audit almost any class at the university for free. And for $10 per credit, the program offers course credit that can go toward a degree for degree-seeking seniors.

NBC’s feature on the program led to significant discussion online, with many people pointing out the burdensome debt younger students take out to take the same classes. 

The National Center for Education Statistics said that the average cost of a four-year undergraduate degree course has risen from $26,902 in 1989 to $104,480 in the 2015-16 academic year, per Forbes.

And according to Student Loan Hero, 69 percent of Class of 2018 graduates left college with debt. On average, these graduates owe $29,800.

Some Twitter users expressed support for the U of M senior program, but said they feel affordable prices should be available to everyone, not just seniors. 

It’s true that others on the university’s campus don’t benefit from such low costs. 

Ahead of a Board of Regents meeting later this week, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler proposed a 2.5 percent tuition hike for undergraduate resident students at the Twin Cities campus. These hikes follow only a partial allotment of the school’s budget request by the State Legislature.

If approved, full-time resident undergraduate students (enrolled in 12 credits or more) would pay a total of around $15,480 in tuition for the next academic year. The Board of Regents will vote on final budget negotiations, including tuition hikes, in July. 

According to the Minnesota Daily, the number of seniors taking advantage of SCEP has risen significantly in recent years, from 315 students in 2016 to 420 in 2018.

Still, these students make up a fraction of the students on the university’s campus, which enrolled almost 48,000 undergraduate and graduate students on its Twin Cities campus during its Spring 2019 semester.

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