NYC’s Best Bargain: “Tuition Free” College For Senior Citizens At The City University of New York

July 5, 2001 | The University

Judith Litvin retired from a job a few years ago to pursue a lifelong dream of a college education. At The City University of New York, she found something even better: a tuition-free college education.

The University offers hundreds of programs and thousands of courses – all tuition-free – for senior citizens. Last year alone more than 2,000 seniors from the five boroughs enrolled tuition-free at the University’s 17 campuses. All had at least two things in common: a thirst for knowledge and at least 60 years of real-life experience.

Litvin seized upon this opportunity after raising two children and completing a satisfying career as an executive secretary for a Manhattan non-profit. She enrolled in music courses, familiar territory for one who had studied piano as a child. Soon, she broadened her educational interests to pursue an associate’s degree in liberal arts. Now, at the age of 80, Mrs. Litvin is a graduate of Queensborough Community College.

“There is that saying, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it,'” says the resident of Whitestone, Queens, who plans to pursue a baccalaureate degree at CUNY’s Hunter College in Manhattan. “You can’t just sit on your hands and watch television.”

David Kaplan of Brooklyn, a retired psychiatric social worker and self-described “lifelong learner” has been taking courses at Hunter since 1985-never missing a single semester, including the summer. His first goal was to learn about the biological foundations of behavior. He immersed himself in courses on genetics, animal behavior, and human evolution.

Once he started, he never looked back. “One course led to another-geology to oceanography to marine biology,” Mr. Kaplan says. At the suggestion of one of his Hunter professors, Mr. Kaplan, who has an MA from Columbia and courses toward a Ph.D from Rutgers, “gave back” to the college, teaching a “Foundations of Science” course as an adjunct.

Frank Schonfeld of the Bronx, 85 years old, has been taking courses at Lehman College since he retired in 1982 as director and treasurer of the Amalgamated Housing Corp. “The program is a treasure,” he said. Fascinated by computers in 1982, Mr. Schonfeld, who graduated from Yeshiva College in 1939, took many computer courses at Lehman College after retiring, and founded the Computers Users Club in 1988. In addition to academic courses ranging from anthropology to philosophy, he has taken a dance workout class in Lehman’s APEX sports center and says “it saved my life.” He and his wife, Jean, who is three years younger, are also part of a group of multicultural folk dancers who perform weekly at Lehman.

His most recent course in politics and the courts is being applied to his role as an activist in the fight against a proposed filtration plant in Jerome Park Reservoir across from the Lehman campus and near his home. He will appear before the Federal Appeals Court for the Second District this summer to testify on the pro se appeal he has filed in the case.

New York State residents who are at least 60 years old may take tuition-free undergraduate college courses at the University’s six community colleges and 11 senior colleges. These senior citizens may take undergraduate courses for credit, tuition-free at the community colleges.

At CUNY’s senior colleges, senior citizens may audit tuition-free undergraduate courses. Free senior citizen enrollment depends on space availability at both senior and community colleges. Seniors citizens enrolled in the tuition-free courses are required to pay fees of $70 per semester. Seniors seeking courses for credit at the senior colleges file a regular application fee and must meet the general admissions requirements.

For further information regarding course offerings or application procedures contact the admissions office at each campus or the University’s Office of Admission Services, 1114 Avenue of the Americas at 42nd Street, 10036, or call 1-800-CUNY-YES or the University’s website