We have more options for education than ever before. Online video tutorials and endless research materials are easy to access via the internet. Sure, students seeking degrees and certificates can earn them online or serve their time in a college or university with the potential to rack up massive amounts of debt—but what happens when degrees are earned, careers are complete, and hobbies and service positions are calling? What about learning just for the sake of it?

In Santa Fe, students young and old can pick up new skills and information affordably through the non-credit Continuing Education Program at the Santa Fe Community College.

"This is not a program to compete against any other form of public education," says Kris Swedin, the program director. "It is a continuously growing program that compliments any education pursued to acquire a degree or certificate from the colleges in town."

If there's something you feel like learning, they probably have you covered. Classes can last as short as a day to as long as six weeks, making the commitment fairly minimal. Popular courses include Spanish language mastery, German, "fearless watercolor," country and Western two-step, mahjong, introduction to 3-D printing, and social media basics.

Just last year, the program held classes for over 3,000 students, 40 percent of whom were over the age of 60. About 700 were students up to age 17 taking summer classes that focused on team building and leadership skills.

The program has also attracted nationally recognized educators from prestigious universities like Columbia University, San Francisco State University and others who rode to Santa Fe on the silver tsunami.

Amanda Hatherly, who teaches plant-based nutrition and "food for life" classes, says she sees the program as a treasure worth seeking. "There is a real value in continuing learning and not just being stuck with the knowledge when you got your first job or finished high school," Hatherly tells SFR. "There's so many different types of people that have moved here with wonderful skill sets, and many of them are teaching continuing ed."

"If you can't look back on the last year and point out these really great things that you've learned," Hatherly explains, "then you've missed out on opportunities."

Art and photography instructor Michael Long agrees. "The classes have a shorter duration and they are more casual in the learning process because grades are not involved," he says. "The topics can be more specific because you are not trying to cover material that is broad in range [like] you would when trying to pursue a degree."

Teachers also have the advantage of the college's many resources. For some, this means classes off-campus where they can avoid the restrictions of the classroom. Geology instructor Kirt Kempter, who also works for National Geographic and the Smithsonian, comments on the possibilities. "So many educated people move here and retire here, yet they want to continue learning," he says. "Many people come here, and they don't know much about the landscape—and that's where I come in."

Register by phone: 428-1676
Register online: sfcc.edu/offices/continuing-education