UW-Green Bay’s Learning in Retirement (LIR) program offers more than 230 non-credit courses annually to serve
its current membership of 1,050 community retirees. The program is sponsored by
the university but is administered by committees of community volunteers, with
all courses taught by volunteers. The
courses cover a wide range of subjects, are selected to meet the needs and
interests of the members, and are
offered in a variety of formats, including single-session lecture-hall
presentations, multiple-week discussion classes, small-group seminars, and
day-long field trips. Annual membership dues of $100 include on-campus parking
and permit members to register for as many courses as they choose to take. The program is intended for anyone who is
retired or semi-retired with an interest in learning; there is no specific age
requirement. The program has been in
existence for over 20 years and its large size—significantly larger than most
LIR programs in the nation—is noteworthy because it has never actively
advertised or solicited for new members; and unlike most large LIR programs, it
is based not in a balmy densely-populated retirement haven but in a relatively
small northern city famous mainly for its football team and its “frozen tundra”
The LIR program’s continued growth and success is attributed to: (a) an
extensive cadre of volunteers who serve as course presenters, course
coordinators, committee members, Board members and office workers and (b) the
strong support of the University, which sponsors it as an official “University
of Wisconsin-Green Bay Institute for Learning in Retirement” program as part of
its Division of Outreach and Adult Access, assigns a Director in that unit as
Advisor to the program, provides the program with free office space, free use
of two 50-seat classrooms, free Media Services assistance for those classrooms,
campus parking permits to LIR members at a greatly reduced rate, and liability
coverage for all on-campus LIR activities and any same-day LIR field trips. The LIR office is staffed by one full-time
person whose salary is covered by LIR membership dues, which are also used to
pay for off-campus classroom rental, off-campus media equipment, publication of
the catalogs and newsletters, and other costs associated with course
offerings. The program has always been
financially self-sustaining and the dues are annually adjusted to assure a
prudent carryover balance each year. The
program also has a modest endowment fund, intended eventually to be used for
special projects and for scholarships.
Stimulation: To offer retirees in the greater Green Bay area a variety of
non-credit courses and other educational opportunities that are taught or
facilitated by peers, community members, campus faculty and staff, and other
knowledgeable volunteer presenters.
Evaluated by number and variety of course offerings each semester.
Learning: To encourage older community members to continue to develop their
knowledge and skills and to broaden their interests. Evaluated by number of members joining LIR
and/or renewing their memberships and by course attendance.
Interaction: To offer opportunities for retirees to interact with their peers
in a friendly, supportive community both in and out of the classroom. Evaluated by course attendance and attendance
at LIR social events.
To support and strengthen UW-Green Bay’s efforts to more closely link the
University to the community. Evaluated
by number of members attending LIR activities on campus.
and retention of members: In its 20 year history, membership has increased each
year, from about 70 in 1992 to 1,050 in 2012.
Retention of enrolled members has remained stable at about the 80%
with courses: Members fill out an
evaluation form at the end of each course. The results are reviewed by the
Curriculum Committee and are forwarded to the course presenter. Participants express a high level of
satisfaction with almost all courses, and almost all presenters are encouraged
to offer a new or repeat course in a future semester. The few presenters who receive low
evaluations are counseled to improve their courses and/or are not invited back.
UW-Green Bay LIR is affiliated with the Elderhostel Institute Network (EIN), a voluntary
association of Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLIs), funded by Elderhostel Inc.,
a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities
for older adults. EIN sponsors a
newsletter, program ideas and other help to LIR programs through its website: http://www.roadscholar.org/ein/intro.asp