Older students across the country are headed back to college this summer — this time, with their grandchildren as classmates.
Grandparents University, a program that lets grandparents and their grandkids (ages seven to 14) spend quality time on a college campus together, is expanding to more and more schools.
Most programs run for two nights and three days during the summer, allowing grandparents and their grandchildren to live in the dormitories, share meals at the dining hall, attend classes taught by faculty, explore campus, and go to other evening activities. And each “graduate” gets a diploma for completing the university program on the final day.
At this year’s Grandparents University at West Chester University, participants worked with TV cameras and filmed news reports in the university’s TV studio, made foam model airplanes and clay pinch pots, and tried out the ropes course, reported the Daily Local News. After class, there were Disney trivia contests and movie screenings.
Other schools offer classes on subjects like robotics, DNA, fashion design — and at Winona State, a Lego course.
The goal of the program is for generations to spend time together outside their normal environment, and for children to learn about potential careers and what it’s like to attend college.
But beyond that, grandkids see a different side of their grandparents — things about their life, experiences, and knowledge that may not come up in their typical interactions.
One GU grandparent told Pamela Stokes, senior events coordinator at Purdue University, “My grandchildren live 15 minutes away from me, but the alone time was the best. The parents always want to answer the questions. They always get in the way,” according to Forbes.
Launched in 2001 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Grandparents University is now running at Purdue, Michigan State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, West Chester, Western Washington, Winona State, and other branches of the University of Wisconsin.
But each university’s program differs slightly. Some of them either require a “field of study,” or that the older participant is an alumnus of the university.
Some schools, like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offer multiple sessions, while other schools run just one program per summer.
It’s not a requirement that the older student be a grandparent. Forbes reports that “almost all the GPU programs allow grandfriends (aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews or other close relatives or friends) to participate.”
Enrollment can be competitive, and for most schools, opens at the start of the new year. So if you want to experience college with your grandkid(s) it’s best to plan now for summer 2020.