Usually when people think about continuing and higher education, they think of recent high school grads and 20-somethings.
But there’s a whole other subset of the population that can – and indeed does – take advantage of post-high school academia: grown adults. For this demographic, there’s the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Granite State College.
Known as OLLI, the program provides educational opportunities to those in the community ages 50 and older. There are more than 100 OLLI programs across the country (two in New Hampshire), and the one in Concord is based out of Granite State College on Hall Street. New Hampshire’s other OLLI program is at Dartmouth College.
“We’re a ‘learning for the fun of it’ organization for people 50 and older,” said Jane Fletcher, program director at OLLI. “It’s an educational-based program, but we’re not an academic model.”
What she means is that although OLLI is educational in focus, it is not academic in the way a traditional four-year college is. This means courses at OLLI do not offer college credit, and there are no academic prerequisites or placement tests involved – and no homework, either.
Instead, people can sign up for individual courses whenever they want – many courses are just two hours in total. Membership is $40 for the year, and being a member gets you perks like discounts on courses and events.
Yes, there are plenty of events included with OLLI programming, too. While some courses consist of several classes over the period of one or more weeks, many are one-offs, and these are the kinds of programs that are accessible to anyone, since you can just show up without having attended any previous sessions.
Apart from getting the chance to learn, adults who take part in OLLI also get the added benefit of meeting people and having a good time, even if that’s just a bonus on top of the educational experience.
“There is a social component to it, but that’s not the primary purpose,” Fletcher said. “It really is to give people the opportunity to learn for a lifetime.”
The program was started by Bernard Osher of Biddeford, Maine. Osher has given endowments to 120 OLLI programs around the country, each one having its own identity and focus based on the community it’s located in.
For example, Fletcher said, the OLLI at Dartmouth is a lot different from the one in Concord. The Dartmouth one has a much more academic model than the Concord one, and members of one OLLI can not jump between the two locations.
That doesn’t mean all activity at the Concord OLLI takes place at the Granite State College building, though. For example, a one-off course in May called From Bell to Broadband: 133 Years of Telephone History will meet at the New Hampshire Telephone Museum in Warner (this course still had openings as of last Thursday). There are even some international trips on the horizon, with a getaway to Ireland planned for May.
There are about 80 total course offerings in Concord, with a broad range of topics. The website, olli.graite.edu, has a catalog listing all courses grouped by subject. Registration for the spring began Feb. 1, but given the nature of the classes, it’s not too late by any means to sign up.
Go to the website to see the full catalog of classes, or call 513-1377 for more information.