CU-Boulder senior auditor program

Cost:

$80 for CU-Boulder alumni, $95 for non-alumni

To view fall semester courses:

colorado.edu/academics/coursesearch

Fall registration:

8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 2-3 at the Koenig Alumni Center, 1202 University Ave.

For more information:

Call CU's Alumni Association at 303-492-8484 or visit alumni.colorado.edu/services/senior-auditors/.

The University of Colorado is increasing its fee for the long-standing program that gives older adults a chance to attend classes on the Boulder campus, a price boost that campus officials say includes additional benefits for participants.

The fee for the senior auditor program is now $80 for CU-Boulder alumni and $95 for non-alumni. Last year, that fee for all participants was $25, and in 2010, it was $10.

This year, seniors — individuals 55 and older — will automatically be added into CU's official registration system and will appear on the roster for the class they're auditing. They'll have access to CU's information technology services and the library system, get an official transcript and will receive a BuffOne identification card.

Auditors also will have immediate access to the technologies used in class, such as online group discussion forums or online reading material collections.

"This program is extraordinarily important and I think our auditors and students really appreciate it, but if we didn't make some of these changes, we probably wouldn't be able to offer the program," said Ryan Chreist, director of alumni relations.

The one-time fee per semester allows seniors to audit as many courses as they'd like, Chreist added.

In the past, it appeared that senior auditors were taking seats from tuition-paying students. Now, they'll register for a class depending on how many seats are still available, Chreist said.

"What we were hearing is there were times when, if there were a bunch of auditors, sometimes students had to sit on the stairs and they may have been violating fire code," Chreist said. "It's a safety issue."

Having auditors on the class roster also could prove useful in emergencies, Chreist said. First responders can use the roster as a starting point to determine how many people may have been in the building or classroom, he said.

'It's such a bargain'

The senior auditor program, which was originally established in 1973, is coordinated by the CU Alumni Association and serves roughly 600 seniors each year.

While he didn't know how much the senior auditor program costs the university, Chreist said it doesn't generate revenue and it requires significant staff time.

That said, it's still an important way for older adults to interact with and learn from students — and vice versa.

"As a critical part of the Boulder community and as a good member of the community, it's a nice service to be able to provide those that live here to further their education," he said.

At Colorado State University and CU's Denver campus, seniors can visit any course for free, but are responsible for the cost of textbooks, supplies, lab fees and other materials.

CU's Colorado Springs campus offers a "Listening In" program for individuals 55 and older, which includes a $10 registration fee, plus $30 per credit hour, plus a $42 online course fee.

To John Driver, a CU alum who has been auditing courses for the last 5 years with his wife Carol, the increased price is still a good deal.

"It's such a bargain," Driver, 70, said. "$25 was ridiculous."

Driver said the automatic access to online course materials will make the first few weeks of class much less stressful. In the past, it's been "hit or miss" whether auditors get access to online course services, he said.

Fear that price hike could exclude some

But for Joan Goddard, a 58-year-old Boulder resident, the price increase doesn't seem to come with many new benefits.

She and her husband Robert have always had access to online course materials right away, and their names have appeared on the class roster in the past.

She said the cost increase may make the auditor program inaccessible to some seniors. When her husband began auditing classes in 2007, the fee was $5, she said.

When she and her husband audit a course, they also pay for the textbook and other materials — the cost adds up.

"For us personally it's the principle," she said. "It's that the fee went up by something like more than 15 times for an alum. That seems like something's amiss."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or kutas@dailycamera.com