Lifelong Learning is a Bargain

This is explanation of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI), and a comparison of the costs of our classes to that of a UC public university.  I realize the purposes of the universities and costs are quite different, and will comment on that later.  Many of the people in lifelong learning were mainly teachers, or taught sometime in their careers.  They mostly received a lot of education, and, like me, are delighted to return to learning after retirement.  They do not require certificates or degrees, or exams to pass courses.  They take what they are interested in from the classes.  The lectures are posted on the OLLI website for review.  We give classes on weekdays in the morning and afternoons.  The classes usually last two hours, with a break in the middle.  The participants usually have time to ask a fair number of questions.

Our curriculum covers three areas:  arts and humanities; social studies; and the sciences.  We tend to cover most areas covered in the university, as well as the medical school in health and medicine classes.

The lecturers are about one third from UC Irvine, one third from other local Universities or local businesses or institutes or museums, and one third from our own members.  We run mainly on volunteers, with two staff secretaries, and a rented classroom paid for by dues.  We choose venues where we do not have to pay for parking.

Our basic fees are $160 for a year or $90 for a semester.  Summer lite courses are self paid for.  For the basic fee, one gets to sign up for six classes.  If there is extra room in a class, you can go to more.  A class will often have three, four, or five lectures.  I will take four lectures per class to give an estimate of the costs per hour.  In a year then, we get two semesters, times six classes per semester, times four lectures per class, time two hours per lecture, to give 96 hours of instruction per year as a minimum.

Let’s compare this to a yearlong class at UC Irvine.  It has three quarters of ten weeks each.  Each week has three hours of lecture and one hour of problem session, or four hours a week.  That gives 3 x 10 x 4 = 120 hours for a yearlong university course.  So these are within 25% of each other,

Now to compare costs.  The OLLI fees for a year are $160.  The UC Irvine tuition is about $13,000 per year.  At an average of four University courses at a time, the UCI student is paying about $3,300 for a yearlong course.  This means our OLLI courses are about 1/20 the cost of present University courses.  This analysis was done mainly to show OLLI members what a great deal they get, and to encourage new people to join.  While other OLLI’s may be more expensive, they are still bargains compared to taking University courses.

Our savings is that we get faculty and public services lecturers at no cost.  The University has a policy of engagement with the local community. Faculty are expected to communicate with the public, both by the University and by the funders of their research grants, such as NSF and Department of Energy.  Public agencies also benefit from publicity and public knowledge of their operations.  We also supplement our lectures from videos on the web from publicly funded institutes, which are often distributed through YouTube.  Since many of our members are parents and grandparents, we can inform our families of how great UC Irvine is, and encourage talented students to enroll there.  We also put many of our talks on our website as PowerPoint talks, giving the speakers further exposure.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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