Jennifer Sheridan Moss, Wayne State University – Senior College Students

To keep college classes full, look to your elders.

Jennifer Sheridan Moss, associate professor of the classics and Latin at Wayne State University, explores why seniors should keep on learning to fend off the problems of old age.

Jennifer Sheridan Moss is an Associate Professor of Classics at Wayne State University in Detroit MI.  There she teaches beginning to graduate level classes in Latin language and ancient history.  She is the winner of numerous teaching awards, including that of the Society for Classical Studies.

Moss’ research focuses on the history of Roman Egypt in the 4th century CE. She is especially interested in this history of taxation, and on the role and status of women in this dynamic province of the Roman Empire.  Moss also conducts research in Classics and Latin pedagogy.

Senior College Students

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American universities are struggling to find students because the number of college-aged students has dropped as Generation Y and Millennials have grown to adulthood. Schools are competing aggressively for a shrinking pool of applicants. Many schools face the likelihood of program cuts and even closure.

A solution to this problem was suggested a long time ago by Cicero, the famous Roman orator and statesman. In an essay entitled “De Senectute”  — Latin for “On Old Age” — Cicero imagines a conversation between one of his ancient Roman heroes, Cato the Elder and two younger men. Cato enumerates the supposed problems of old age, such as physical weakness and the nearness of death, and systematically dismisses all of them. The antidote to old age, Cato tells us, is learning.  He, in particular, learned ancient Greek in his senior years, and spent a great time studying its literature. He credits this with his ability, in his 80s, to carefully articulate the argument of the essay.

Cicero inadvertently suggests an excellent fix for the dilemma of American colleges.  There are 75 million baby boomers in the United States, many of whom are now retired. This is an ideal time for them to come back to school, with a senior discount on tuition, and fill empty seats. Seniors make lively college students and mentors to youth, and by learning in their later years, they stave off the effects of aging. Colleges should actively recruit and accommodate seniors if they wish to keep their programs, particularly those in the liberal arts, alive.

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