At 62, Atlanta man returns to college tuition-free thanks to state program

Criswell was recently accepted into the teaching program at Kennesaw State University.
Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 6:02 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - An Atlanta man is going back to college at the ripe age of 62, and a state program is giving him the golden chance.

When Jeff Criswell turns 64 in two years, he won’t be eyeing retirement. Instead, hopes to be starting a new career as a high school English teacher.

“Most people my age are thinking about how much golf they can play or moving to Florida to retire, God bless them,” said Criswell. “I’m thinking of The Beatles song, ‘When I’m Sixty-Four.’”

Criswell has had some success in the years he’s been alive, selling a baseball brand to a major retail store in the ‘90s and earning his master’s degree in 2001 at the age of 40. Decades later, the now-rideshare driver calls himself a “frustrated writer.” He said he wants to do something more meaningful. So, he’s going back to school.

Criswell was recently accepted into the teaching program at Kennesaw State University.

“At this point, people my age have so much to give,” he said. “There’s so much life experience.”

In Georgia, residents 62 and older can enroll in classes, tuition-free, at any of the 31 colleges and universities in the University System of Georgia. Books and other fees are not included.

“This is the first time I’ve actually heard of someone using the program to become a teacher,” said Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators.

Morgan said she admires anyone who enters the teaching profession. Georgia has been facing a teacher shortage since before the pandemic, but the health crisis exacerbated the loss, according to Morgan. A recent national survey showed 55% of educators are thinking of leaving the profession early.

“We’ve got to make the changes in our profession and our schools that make education an attractive profession,” Morgan said.

For Criswell, who never considered teaching until now, he hopes the journey is impactful.

“I think there’s a lot of energy in a school,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll be somebody who can be relatable.”

If you are a Georgia resident 62 and older and would like to learn more about the requirements to take courses at schools in the state system, click here.