For many retirees, the next steps after leaving the workforce are to travel, become a volunteer or enjoy their newfound free time.
For Laura Geiger, it was math class.
Over 40 years after leaving the University of Georgia less than a year before she was set to graduate, Laura Geiger decided it was time to return to school and earn the degree she always wanted.
“I said, ‘It's time. It's time for me to go back and get my degree,’” Laura Geiger said.
UGA’s Griffin, Georgia, campus was conveniently located near her home, and her daughter, Livia Geiger, was a sophomore studying at UGA in Athens at the time. Laura Geiger was motivated.
Now both of them are preparing to celebrate their graduation from the university together, alongside the rest of the class of 2022.
Laura Geiger comes from a long line of journalists, and came to UGA in the 1970s to pursue a degree in newspapers, but left before graduating to get married and work as a registered nurse.
Despite not completing her degree, she managed two local papers, The Herald Gazette in Barnesville, Georgia, and the Pike County Journal Reporter, for over 40 years. She retired in January.
When Laura Geiger went back to finish her degree, she chose not to continue with journalism and changed her major to consumer economics with a concentration in financial planning.
The return to classes for Laura Geiger was even more exciting when she found out it was free.
Georgia residents over the age of 62 have the chance to attend any public university in Georgia at a low cost or for free through the University System of Georgia’s 62 and Older Program. The program gives students like Laura Geiger the opportunity to start or return to higher education without worrying about the financial burden that often comes along with college classes.
According to Laura Geiger, the return to classes was a bit challenging, and the pandemic brought a whole new learning curve, having to navigate virtual classes and unfamiliar softwares.
But, Laura Geiger said she enjoyed every class she took — even the challenging ones. She had not taken a math class in over 40 years, and considered not completing the course. But with the encouragement of her daughter, she was able to pass the class.
“I kept reminding her to just see it through because it was something that she had wanted for so long, that was one part of her life where the chapter wasn't closed,” Livia Geiger said.
Laura Geiger said the experience has been everything she wanted and more. She loves being able to continue to learn so even though her degree is complete, she is considering returning in the fall to take more classes.
After graduation, Laura Geiger hopes to use her new degree to volunteer and teach basic financial literacy to youth, people who are underprivileged and veterans. Her daughter, who will graduate with a degree in marketing, will be moving to Nashville to start her career at Oracle Netsuite.
May Melton Geiger, Laura Geiger’s eldest daughter and another UGA alum, said that she is proud of her mother for working hard and achieving this goal and for wanting to use her degree to give back to the community.
“It's been great to see her not just sit idly by when she retired, she immediately went back to school, and she went back to school to do something which is going to be really beneficial for our community,” May Melton Geiger said.
Laura Geiger hopes her story will encourage others to return to school, no matter their age.
“If you want to do this, go for it,” Laura Geiger said. “You're only as old as you act, and it energized me — being here has energized me.”
Livia Geiger is happy that she gets to share this moment with her mother and said having her mother as a fellow student was like having another friend to confide in and talk to about student life. She has been inspired by her mother’s dedication throughout both of their time at the university.
“There’s room for both of us,” Livia Geiger said. “I can't wait to graduate with my mom. She is my best friend, my biggest supporter and honestly the light of my life. I'm just so, so grateful that we get to share such a special moment together on Friday.”