Back To School

Computer U franchise teaches seniors how to travel the World Wide Web.
Magazine Contributor
2 min read

This story appears in the June 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As the Internet becomes the primary way people communicate, shop and learn, no one wants to be left behind. Urged by friends and relatives to get online, many seniors are looking for help with the hows and whys of computers and the Web.

Ready to answer those questions is Computer U Learning Centers, a franchise that offers computer training to adults 50 and older. Centers are located in Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada.

The company began in 1992 with president Vicki Beckner offering computer training classes at the Joslyn Senior Center in Palm Desert, California. Success with the Joslyn Center classes inspired Beckner to open a second center at the nearby La Quinta Senior Center in 1995. One year later, Beckner's husband, Russ, joined the company and became vice president, helping it expand into franchising. "It was obvious there was a tremendous need for older adults to have access to computer [training] established specifically for them," says Russ.

A typical Computer U classroom has between six and 10 computers, with one student per computer, allowing for a hands-on learning experience. In addition to surfing the Net, seniors learn to use programs like Quicken to manage finances or use digital cameras to send electronic images to friends and family anywhere in the world.

The Beckners also help seniors purchase computers, providing free lectures covering what they should ask and look for when buying a computer. The computer knowledge many seniors gain from the center and its lectures can take some family members by surprise. "When a son or daughter offers their mom their old computer and she says, 'What's the processor speed and how fast is the modem?' it kind of knocks them off their feet," Russ says proudly.

Computer U Learning Centers are seeking patient, computer-literate franchisees. Start-up costs can run as high as $40,000, with a $20,000 franchise fee. For more information, visit

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