U of R Lifelong Learning Centre donors, students say they weren't consulted on programming cuts
University of Regina says it significantly scaled back programming for financial reasons
For more four decades, if you were 50-years-old or older and wanted to learn yoga, or about historical architecture and biology, or to speak another language, you could do that at the Lifelong Learning Centre (LLC) on College Avenue in Regina.
That is no longer the case.
The University of Regina's Continuing Centre for Education, which runs the LLC, announced earlier this month that it is significantly scaling down its programming for the 2023/24 academic year.
Paid courses will no longer be offered due to financial reasons. For the foreseeable future, the LLC will only offer free lunch hour lectures. The frequency of those lectures has yet to be determined.
"It has been [a decision] that was made with very careful consideration of the financial sustainability of the centre. And that is what I want to work toward for the Lifelong Learning Centre. To ensure that it can continue even if it doesn't look exactly the same," Christie Schultz, dean of the University of Regina's Centre for Continuing Education, told CBC News on Monday.
Students and instructors say they were given no heads-up that this change was coming. They said this is especially concerning because, as long-time donors, they expect to be consulted on decisions like this.
Lyn Goldman has taken classes through the LLC for about 30 years. She said she was horrified when she heard the news and wrote a letter to the president of the U of R.
"I suggested that he has just lost another 100 people who have left the university money and their wills. Because that's what we do. We fund things, we support things, we volunteer," said Goldman.
She said she is disturbed that the university is "giving up" its connections with the community.
"They've lost contact with the people who built the place, who care about the place, who fund the place. To me, it's like warehousing older people again, saying, 'because you're old, we don't really have to do services for you anymore. You don't want to learn anything new,'" said Goldman.
She said she completely understand that finances are tight for the university at this time.
"I'm not a university administrator and and I'm not a financial genius. I don't know what they have to do, but I do know that if they lose the support of the community, they're losing much more than money," Goldman said.
Don Black, a history instructor at the LLC, said he has already put time into preparing his course for the fall semester. He was not given any warning about the university's decision.
"I feel kind of ill-served by the process. I know that other instructors too had gone through a lot of work preparing things for the fall," said Black.
"To not be recognized and thanked … just kind of let go by hearing things second-hand was kind of off putting."
Diane Mullan worked at the Lifelong Learning Centre for 16 years until 2007. After she retired, she regularly took courses at the centre, and called them a "lifeline."
She said the decision to end paid courses came as a shock, because the donors who funded the renovation of the College Avenue campus had not been consulted.
Mullan said social connection and education are important to the health of seniors.
"Retirement is a major life change and you lose a lot of connection that you had in the workplace. Many people are experiencing loss, like their spouses or significant others. And so we're really looking for ways to rebuild our lives."
Mullan said the courses at the LLC were instrumental in helping seniors do just that.
"There's no other place like it in Regina. And I think that to shut this down, we'll see an impact down the road on how many people are getting sicker, more isolated, more depressed because they don't have this place," Mullan said.
Meanwhile, Schultz said the university will collaborate with the Seniors University Group "in order to incorporate a variety of perspectives as we undertake a review of our entire slate of LLC programming and determine what can be offered in the coming years."
Schultz said she understands that some of the seniors who take the courses are upset.
"I am a proponent of lifelong learning in all of its forms and recognize that we learn across our career spans and our life-spans in so many ways. And I recognize that the news of these changes has been very difficult and disappointing for many," said Schultz.
"But I am confident that a year from now we will be able to celebrate what we've been able to create together."
The last day of classes was June 16.