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Program Description & Application Procedure


The Bernard Osher Foundation’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes grant program provides support to institutions of higher education to develop and strengthen initiatives that offer intellectually stimulating, non-credit courses specifically designed for students 50 years of age or older who are interested in personal enrichment. Emphasis is placed on learning for the joy of learning and on keeping in touch with a larger world.

The Foundation is not highly prescriptive in the type of lifelong learning program it will support; it recognizes that there are many variations on the theme and encourages each grantee to find a model best suited to the needs and interests of its community. Funded programs do, however, share a common set of standards to encourage excellence and promote long-term success. These standards form the guidelines on which potential grant support is assessed.


• The program must offer a diverse and intellectually-stimulating array of non-credit educational offerings, (courses, lectures, and other special events) in a wide variety of academic disciplines;

• Program offerings must be specifically developed for seasoned adults;

• The host institution must demonstrate its strong support of the program and materially contribute to its ongoing development and success. (Of particular concern to the Foundation is the provision of office and classroom space for program operation.);

• The program must offer opportunities for volunteer leadership, have a sound organizational structure, and have in place a mechanism to evaluate participant satisfaction with educational offerings;

• Program offerings must occur in real-time. (This is not a grant program for online or distance learning projects.)


The Foundation awards selected programs with an operating grant of $100,000. Upon demonstrated success, the Foundation will consider establishing endowments of $1 million to provide permanent support for such programs as individual Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes.


The Foundation currently funds lifelong learning programs at 119 university and college campuses across the country, with at least one grantee in each of the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia). To qualify for grant consideration, programs must:
• Be officially affiliated with a college or university in the United States;

• Have at least 500 dues-paying members annually and an intention of significantly expanding its annual membership with Osher support, if funded.


There are two very specific requirements: (1) that once funded, the program exclusively identify itself as the "Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of XXX" using a logo provided by the Foundation to represent the organization publicly with all marketing materials including website, brochures, catalogs, etc.; and (2) that the university claim no overhead or administrative costs from any Osher grant.

Application Procedure

Please note that the Foundation is not currently accepting funding proposals for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes Program. Notice will be posted on this site if circumstances change. Institutions whose programs meet the guidelines and eligibility criteria above that are interested in informing the Foundation about their lifelong learning programs for potential future Request-for-Proposal (RFP) opportunities may provide a 2- to 3-page letter specifically addressing the points below:
• The nature of your lifelong learning program;

• A short description of university support for the program;

• The roles that volunteers play in program development and operation;

• A description of the curriculum, including the number and frequency of courses;

• The number of dues-paying members participating in the program annually;

• Cost of membership, course fees, and related information;

• Any additional comments that you feel would be helpful to the Foundation.

Please send letters of inquiry to: David Blazevich, Senior Program Officer, The Bernard Osher Foundation, One Ferry Building, Suite 255, San Francisco, CA 94111.