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July 22, 2004

CGS Opens 1 Noncredit Program, Closes Another

Pitt’s College of General Studies (CGS) is opening an institute for older learners while discontinuing its personal enrichment program.

With a $100,000 grant from the San Francisco-based Bernard Osher Foundation, CGS has established the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, set to enroll its first students in February. The grant, which is renewable for two years, could result in an endowment award of up to $1 million. Pitt is providing in-kind support and resources.

The new institute, open to those 55 and older, will offer noncredit liberal arts courses taught mainly by Pitt emeritus faculty, complemented by instructors from CGS’s noncredit personal enrichment program, which was a casualty of restructuring.

“The is a strategic decision, and one I’ve very proud of,” CGS Dean Susan R. Kinsey told the University Times yesterday. “The college’s market research, combined with census data on the aging regional population, indicates a need for academically oriented programs geared toward educated, older individuals. This allows us to be innovating, by providing a membership organization that will bring high-quality liberal arts programs in a noncredit framework to this audience of older learners in a very cost-effective way.”

For $100 membership fee per term ($75 for the summer term), members will be able to enroll in up to 16 mini-courses, offered over two blocks of 5-week sessions, and audit one regular undergraduate course. Members also will given I.D. cards with library privileges, campus shuttle and computer access, as well as admission to special Friday luncheons, field trips and lectures.

Or individuals will be able to sign up as Osher institute associates to audit undergrad courses at $45 per course.

The popular noncredit enrichment courses, which were open to all ages, were discontinued after 16 years. “We were hoping that the program would be a break-even deal, but for quite a while we have had to subsidize it,” Kinsey said. “Candidly, no college, no institution, no organization can be all things to all people. We’ve made a strategic decision to identify where we can best serve the needs of our community and we think to do that we need to focus on the population of people over 55.”

The 64 personal enrichment courses CGS offered last fall attracted 735 students, Kinsey said. “Of those, we estimate half would qualify to join Osher by being over 55.”

Some of the instructors of those courses will be teaching in the new institute. Those instructors typically are otherwise fully employed people teaching as a side interest, Kinsey said.

CGS’s Third Age program participants who are over 55 will be able to audit courses through the Osher institute. No other CGS programs are affected.

The Osher Foundation grant renewal is subject to meeting enrollment targets and evaluating the satisfaction level of participants. “For year 1, we have projected about 250 members and hope to be able to accept more than that if the interest is there,” Kinsey said. “This is a dream, in a way, to foster a community of older learners, and to facilitate the kind of growth in liberal arts that is at the core of what Pitt does well,” she added.

The Osher institute office and staff will be located in the CGS McCarl Center, where classes will be held. Judith Bobenage, who manages CGS’s noncredit programs, will coordinate the new institute. For more information, call 412/624-6600.

-Peter Hart

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