I was following link bait from effbee earlier today, and read an article about retiring near college campuses to communities with close ties to those colleges, including opportunities to audit classes and so on.
In the comments, people talked about wanting, during retirement, to audit for free, or take a BA for free, and complaining about the costs of doing so. Some states do have laws that allow people over 60 to audit classes for free, just as some states have laws that allow veterans to take classes with free or reduced tuition. (In my state, the legislature basically said, you have to have veterans, and provide appropriate special services, but you can't charge tuition, and no, the state isn't going to make up the difference.)
The long answer, at least for state schools, is that as state (tax) support for schools has gone down, tuition and fees have gone up. The voters have long voted for politicians who promise lower taxes in all sorts of ways, and keep voting for those politicians. They argue that education is a private good, and we state taxpayers shouldn't pay for it, and so we pay less for it (as taxpayers) and students pay more individually. It's no secret that I don't like any of this. I'd happily pay a lot more in taxes for well-supported schools (at all levels, from pre-school to graduate programs), universal health care, and better social services of all sorts. And I vote that way when I can (though finding any politician to vote for who will promise to raise taxes to support schools seems pretty impossible).
So, should seniors get reduced or free tuition or auditing privileges at state schools?
I think no. And I know not all seniors have had opportunities, and I want them to, but these folks have been voting for a long time, and their collective votes have put into office politicians who've consistently voted to lower taxes and lower the support for public schools (at all levels). That hurts almost everyone who wants to attend public schools, and it especially hurts younger students who are taking on serious loan debt, even at schools such as my own, which charges under $10K tuition/year. (Yes, there are other fees, and no, that doesn't count housing, books, etc.)
What about you folks? What do you think?