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I am disheartened to learn that the Board of Regents is considering discontinuing the tuition waiver for seniors. I had the opportunity to teach at University of Alaska Southeast during the 2002-2003 academic year as an adjunct Spanish professor. I have been teaching Spanish for over five years now, and some of the best classes I taught were at UAS due, in part, to the senior tuition waiver. I have yet to teach a Spanish class at a university that provided such a unique cross-section of the community. This is truly one of the strengths of the University of Alaska system.
I taught two upper-division Spanish classes during my time at UAS. My students included high school Spanish students who had run out of language learning opportunities at their school, traditional 18- to 22-year-old undergraduate students, professionals from the community and senior auditors. When the class was engaged in conversations about political conflict in Latin America, or cultural issues in Spain, having such a diverse student body made the discussions that much more lively and enlightening. The senior auditors in the class added a depth and perspective that could not have been achieved with simply traditional undergraduate students. We all benefited, myself as the instructor included, from the presence of the senior auditors in the class.
In the three years I have been teaching since my time in Juneau, I have often reminisced and longed for the presence of nontraditional students in my class to add profundity and distinctive viewpoints to the class dialogue. The Board of Regents would be remiss in canceling the senior auditor program in the University of Alaska state system. They would be doing a great disservice to all of the tuition paying students by taking this opportunity away from senior auditors.