Editor’s Note: For all the details about UMD’s Golden ID program, see this resource on Greenbelt Online. It was compiled from official UMD sources and many Golden ID students.
by Shannon Clark
A short bus ride away from their hometown, some Greenbelt residents are taking advantage of the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Golden ID Program, a program built to provide retirees with the opportunity to attend college classes at a low cost.
“So many people say, ‘I’m too old to be doing that, I can’t go back.’ Well, why not? The atmosphere and excitement of being on campus, and new meeting people with new ideas, I just love it,” said Greenbelt resident Carol Griffith.
Maryland residents over 60 who are not employed over 20 hours per week are eligible to enroll in up to three courses per semester at UMD. With tuition waived, retirees are responsible for paying the $263 Golden ID fee each semester. Additional costs including parking are tacked on, but can be avoided through riding the Shuttle-UM.
Griffith, who worked as both a nurse and a paralegal, discovered a passion for writing after landing a job editing law books. Now degree-seeking, Griffith takes one class a semester at UMD and is working toward her bachelor’s in English.
“My boss [at the time] had said, ‘I can’t wait to retire so I can go to the University of Maryland for free and get another degree,'” said Griffith. “I had already had plans to get an English degree so after I heard this I thought, ‘Well, why not?'”
While the Seasoned Adults Growing Educationally (SAGE) program is offered nearby at Prince George’s Community College, Greenbelt resident Susan Harris emphasized the diversity of courses UMD offers.
“SAGE is more limited in courses. I wanted the campus experience and all the course offerings,” said Harris.
A former court reporter now turned blogger for Greenbelt Online, Harris has been auditing history courses at UMD for the past three years.
“Some people are looking for new information and some people want to catch up in their field,” said Harris. “I’m just a total dilettante, so all the courses I’ve taken so far are history courses, like the history of art, music, film and landscape.”
Harris highlighted that UMD’s large campus and populated student body have echoed reminders of her own time in college, while noting the generational changes that have occurred.
“I appreciate how diverse the student population is,” said Harris. “It makes me aware of how little diversity there was at [Oberlin] even though it was the first co-ed and integrated college.”
Stepping back into the classroom, Griffith noted she brings a new perspective to the classroom, having herself lived through some of the experiences her teachers teach.
While Harris and Griffith are still continuing their studies at UMD, Greenbelt resident Sven Allenbach-Schmidt completed his bachelor of history degree in December 2020 through Golden ID.
“I’ve always loved history and I had a teacher in high school who would use primary sources to teach history instead of textbooks,” said Allenbach-Schmidt. “I wanted to go back now to finish up my degree.”
Outside of classes, the Golden ID Student Association provides retirees an opportunity to meet fellow program participants, aiming to establish a community for Golden ID on campus.
“As a group we meet for lunch once a month and have done other activities before, like going to a museum,” said Harris.
As the semester continues to roll forward, Griffith encourages those interested in Golden ID to embrace the challenges that returning to campus may bring.
“Keep an open mind and be willing to have new experiences. You can do it, push yourself – you don’t know what you can do until you try., said Griffith.
Shannon Clark is a masters degree candidate in the Merrill School of Journalism at the University of Maryland. She wrote this report as an intern for the Greenbelt News Review. .