ST. GEORGE — Dixie State University has more to offer than just what’s advertised on its brochures. With programs like “House Bill 60” and the Institute for Continued Learning, the university provides affordable continued education and promotes lifelong learning for seniors in the St. George area.
Seniors eager to explore St. George’s best hikes, challenge themselves to learn a new subject or continue their education in any field without the requirement of grades, tests or credit for a degree can participate in the programs.
“I think sometimes, like in a lecture class, it’s kind of nice to have some senior citizens in there just because they have a different perspective on things,” Julie Stender, registrar at Dixie State, told St. George News. “I think it’s just a good thing to keep them active, their minds active. I would consider doing that when I turn that age.”
The HB 60 program was created by the state in 1977 and has been implemented at state-run higher education institutions including Dixie State ever since. To be eligible for the program, students must be 62 years of age or older and be a resident of Utah. Students can audit classes on a space-available basis, meaning if no students who pay tuition are waitlisted for a class, a HB 60 student can join a class.
Students pay $45 in fees, in addition to any lab or course-specific fees, but no tuition. HB 60 students can take any class at Dixie State except for physical education courses, which are reserved for tuition-paying students. HB 60 students will not receive any grades or credit.
The program is beneficial for anyone who really enjoys learning and wants to expand their knowledge, said Denise Poulsen, a LaVerkin resident who enrolled in a basic computer education course through the HB 60 program in January.
“The purpose is not to make a career,” Poulsen told St. George News. “The purpose is, go out and learn something you always wanted to because it’s there and we’ve paid into it our whole lives in property taxes and stuff, and this was a way the government said, ‘Okay, yeah, if there’s extra space, let’s let it go.’”
This semester, there are 31 students enrolled in HB 60 at Dixie State taking 51 classes, Stender said. There are usually many more students than that, but numbers dropped after the pandemic hit and classes went online, she said.
The most popular classes among HB 60 students are art courses. Unlike math and science, which are always changing, art is a subject that doesn’t become unfamiliar and may be less intimidating to older students, professor of creative arts Dennis Martinez told St. George News, who has had HB 60 students in his classes for the past 26 years.
“I think maybe just art as a communication venue is always attractive toward student interest and participation, no matter what age range,” Martinez said. “I have had older students come in in the midst of a project and help some other students while I’m over on this side of the classroom, and I always get that kind of benefit, I think, from having the differing generations in there.”
The program provides seniors with the opportunity to explore subjects they were always interested in but may not have had time to practice earlier in life, professor of drawing and painting Del Parson added. He recalled an HB 60 student who retired from being a dentist but had always wanted to be an artist. Before he died, he became a nationally recognized artist after taking a few classes.
“He was real eager to learn, and he really did,” Parson told St. George News. “A lot of times, a senior person is a serious student. They’re there because they really would like to learn. It’s good to have some seniors in the classes.”
For the first time in his 30 years at Dixie State, Parson does not have any HB 60 students enrolled in his classes this semester. It can be tricky to teach too many students in one class, so he tries to limit the number of students he lets into each class, he said.
Seniors who want to continue their education with other seniors can register for the Institute for Continued Learning program. The program has been at Dixie State for 41 years and offers a catalog of courses ranging from pickleball games and field trips to St. George’s best hikes to classes in geology, computers, literature, history, languages and more. The program costs $45 per semester and students can take as many classes as they like.
“ICL provides outstanding classes and activities for retired and semi-retired individuals in our community,” Nancy Hauck, Dixie State’s Institute for Continued Learning administrator, told St. George News via email. “This wonderful lifelong learning program gives intellectual, physical and social enrichment to its members. We are fortunate to have ICL at DSU.”
Robert Kramer, director of the Institute for Continued Learning, added that the program helps its members lead long, healthy lives by keeping them physically, mentally and socially active. The institute offers courses virtually to people who don’t live in the St. George area or are unable to get to class, including residents of assisted living facilities. This semester, 550 members are enrolled in the program, which is significantly fewer than normal.
“COVID played a huge role,” Kramer told St. George News. “It’s unfortunate because people are missing out on a full program that they could be participating in.”
Kramer also takes classes as a HB 60 student and said that both programs are beneficial and add to the portfolio of courses available at Dixie State.
“We’ve got some outstanding professors and courses at DSU,” Kramer told St. George News. “I’ve taken a number of them and found them to be very, very good.”
Summer registration at the Institute for Continued Learning will open in late March or early April, and registration for fall classes will open in August. The full course catalog is available on program’s website. To submit an application for HB 60 classes, contact Dixie State’s admissions office at [email protected] or 435-652-7777. HB 60 courses are also offered at state-run universities and colleges across Utah.
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