Chamber-4It is back-to-school time for children all over the state. Adults are going back to college to prepare for careers or to change careers. There is a group of students, students at least 62 years old, which are enjoying college classes at a reduced rate. All Minnesota State Community and Technical Colleges and Universities offer a reduced rate for Minnesota residents in their classes, if there are any empty seats remaining in classes at the beginning of the semester. The Senior Rate is $20 per credit plus any fees applicable to the course and course materials. Minnesota State Community and Technical College (M State) in Fergus Falls is one of the colleges that offer this opportunity.

M State Chamber Choral Director Teresa Ashworth provides a collegiate choir experience for community members. The Choral meets on Monday nights during the semester, and those participating can sign up for college credit. The class is a one-credit course. Students register in the class the first night.  This semester the Choral has their first class on Sept. 9. Current participants range in age from 20 to 72.

Ashworth really enjoys working with the Choral. “The networking is a wonderful life connection between all the members in this age of texting and technology. I see face-to-face mentorship which makes our group strong. Sometimes these connections culminate with students getting jobs.”

The group learns and performs a variety of music, including jazz, Broadway, classical, and pop, something for everyone. The class is a college learning experience not a social group. “We practice for two hours a week and have one performance each semester. The two hours always seem to go so fast. A semester lasts about four months. These musicians provide an excellent performance as they share music from their souls. There is such a connection and relationship with the music. This opportunity fosters lifetime learning,” said Ashworth.

Cheryl Hjelmstad, from Elbow Lake, has been enjoying classes at M State in Fergus Fall sfor the last couple of years. She has been taking ceramics classes.  “I started with working on the pottery wheel. The last two semesters I have worked with slabs of clay,” said Hjelmstad. She started taking classes to keep busy and to get out.  She really likes the creativity of working with clay. “When other people use the wheel it looks so easy to create pottery, but I find working with slabs of clay is easier. The class is very relaxing, and I have a great feeling of satisfaction creating something from a lump of clay. Lori Charest, the instructor, is so patient and giving of her time and experience.”

ChamberHjelmstad encourages seniors to take advantage of the great price to take college classes. “It is great to take classes for personal enrichment. If someone is concerned about the grades they might earn or the level of homework, they can audit the class. It costs the same if you take the class for credit or audit it. You learn a lot of information about subjects that interest you.” The next class she would like to take is personal finance.

Adults interested in taking classes at their local colleges should inquire immediately to see if there is space available.  Most of the Minnesota colleges start their classes in late August or early September and then again in January.