Adult learners to benefit from new Penn State scholarship

Osher Foundation grant supports scholarships; a second grant continues funding for lifelong learning institutes at three Penn State campuses

University Park, Pa.-- Adults thinking about going back to a Penn State campus to complete an undergraduate degree they started years earlier now have a new incentive. The Bernard Osher Foundation has awarded $50,000 to Penn State Outreach for the Osher Reentry Scholarship Program. Beginning in spring 2009, 25 adult learners across the state who meet the scholarship requirements will each receive $2,000 toward tuition for one year.

College financial aid programs often require students to be enrolled full-time, but the Osher Reentry Scholarship is available to part-time students, as well. Nationally, 32 percent of the more than 2.6 million individuals over age 16 participating in adult education activities are working and going to school part time and are receiving some form of financial aid (federal and state grants and loans). But these students still face out-of-pocket tuition and fees expenses averaging $1,144 for each education activity, according to the 2004-05 adult education participation report of the National Center for Education Statistics.

"Financial aid is critically important to helping adult learners pursue their education goals," said Martha Jordan, director of Adult Learner Advocacy and Enrollment Services, a Penn State Outreach unit. "Penn State Outreach is committed to increasing financial aid programs for these students."

Jordan noted that for the 2007-08 academic year, 42 adult learners studying through Penn State's World Campus and Continuing Education at University Park received $111,186 in scholarships. Penn State Outreach has several scholarships, including the Fischer Family Scholarship, World Campus Student Fund Scholarship and Trustee Scholarship Program, available for this student population.

There are more than 20,000 Penn State adult learners who meet one or more of the following criteria: are 24 years old or older, veterans of the armed services, returning to school after four or more years of employment, homemaking or other activity, as well as holding multiple roles as parent, spouse/partner or employee.

To qualify for the Osher Reentry Scholarship, students need to be returning to college after a gap of five or more years to complete their first undergraduate degree program. They should expect to participate in the workforce upon graduation and be between the ages of 25 and 50, as well as have a need for tuition assistance. This fall, Penn State Outreach's Office of Adult Learner Advocacy will invite eligible adult learners to apply for the Osher Reentry Scholarship.

The Bernard Osher Foundation, headquartered in San Francisco, was founded by businessman and community leader Bernard Osher to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts. Penn State is among 64 institutions in 24 states and the District of Columbia receiving funding for the Osher Reentry Scholarship.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

The same foundation also supports the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Penn State and recently awarded a second $100,000 grant to fund three institutes in State College and at the Penn State Mont Alto and York campuses. The Osher Foundation awarded Penn State an initial $100,000 grant in 2007 for the program, which is volunteer-driven and dedicated to providing mature adults (those age 50 and older) with educational and social enrichment activities; although, anyone over age 18 may join. The foundation supports more than 120 institutes nationwide.

According to Jeff Hand, director of Penn State Continuing Education and head of the OLLI program at Penn State, said, “OLLI gives participants a sense of community. It keeps these individuals active and connected with each other and provides opportunities for them to give back to their community by volunteering their time and expertise to help others. That’s the power of OLLI.”

Programs are presented by OLLI members and cover topics ranging from how to play chess to foreign language lessons and bus trips to performing arts centers and national parks. For information about fall Osher Lifelong Learning Institute programs, visit the State College OLLI Web site:; Penn State York OLLI:; or Penn State Mont Alto Continuing Education:

Adult Learner Advocacy and Enrollment Services is dedicated to extending and enhancing services to Penn State adult students—those who are 24 years or older, veterans, returning to college after four or more years of employment or those with multiple life roles. This unit provides more than 13,000 adult undergraduate students throughout the Penn State system with a one-stop environment for accessing all student services. For more information, visit online. Adult Learner Advocacy and Enrollment Services is part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education. Penn State Outreach serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 80 countries worldwide.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009