Prepared for: Individuals and Institutions interested in developing a new LLI
by the Elderhostel Institute Network (EIN)

The following information is designed primarily for organizers of lifelong learning institutes that are sponsored by a college or university. Given the emerging trend, however, that of institutes without an academic affiliation, most of the material found within these pages will still be useful.

For lifelong learning institutes that do not have an academic host, but want to be affiliated with the Elderhostel Institute Network, we offer the following guidelines:

• Courses, although non-credit in nature, must be of academic quality and on a par with undergraduate college courses.
• LLIs must offer the opportunity for socialization and discussion with others who have similar learning interests.
• EIN stresses the value of, and encourages the development of an academic relationship of some sort. There are many benefits to be gained from this connection for LLI members such as library privileges, insurance coverage and cultural and educational opportunities.
• Members should be encouraged to take responsibility for running their lifelong learning institute. In other words they take "ownership" of the program. It is this feature which sets lifelong learning institutes apart from other programs, such as adult education centers.
• Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLIs) that do not have an academic host must carry their own liability insurance and provide EIN with a copy of the certificate. (LLIs with academic hosts are usually covered under their host's liability umbrella policy.) The Elderhostel Institute Network (EIN) and Elderhostel, Inc. do not provide liability insurance coverage for any lifelong learning institute. Each institute, although an affiliate of the Elderhostel Institute Network, is an independent entity. As such, it must make sure that it has adequate coverage, either through an academic host or through independent means.

This phase should take no more than one month. The goals are for the initiator(s) to become knowledgeable about the lifelong learning movement and to determine the feasibility of establishing an LLI in their area.

Explore the Elderhostel web site -
• LLI Overview
• A Brief History of the Elderhostel Institute Network
• Elderhostel and the LLI Movement
• LLI Movement on College and University Campuses
• FAQs
• Benefits of an LLI for the Host, the Institute and the Members
• Sponsoring an LLI
• LLI Courses
• Mission Statement of EIN
• Facts about EIN
• Affiliate Application
• A List of Affiliates

Contact Existing Programs for older learners in your area:
• continuing education/special programs directors at area colleges, universities and community   colleges
• local chapters of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
• public school community education program directors

Information to request:
• format of programs offered
• number of participants
• curriculum offered
• cost to the learner
• how the program is financed
• how long the program has been in place

Profile Retirement-Age People In Your Community
• how many people age 60+ live in your area
• where they live
• their relative financial situation
• their educational background

Suggested sources of information:
• State Council on Aging
• Senior Center staff
• Local Area Agency on Aging
• Census data
• Chamber of Commerce
• Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP - a federal program)

Phase II can be completed in six to eight weeks. The goals are to gain authorization to proceed with actual development of the Institute and to involve a wider group of people in the planning process.

Either of these two steps might be taken first. The choice will depend on whether the initiator is a campus staff person or a local group of older people, the administrative workings of the potential host institution, and the level of authority on the campus of the initiating person or group.

Create a Preliminary Plan for the Establishment of an Institute
Such a preliminary proposal seeks authorization to explore the potential for an Institute. It should include summary findings from the data gathering phase and the reasons for the campus to sponsor an Institute. The plan also needs to raise issues such as space, parking, the nature of the Institute, start-up funding, setting of fees, recruitment of members, governance, staffing, potential size and publicity.

Whether the initiator(s) is a campus staff person or a local group, this plan will be submitted to the decision-maker(s) on the campus designated to sponsor the Institute.

Convene an Informational Meeting of Potential Members/Organizers
Through your contacts with the local community organizations invite their members to an informational meeting. A campus staff person as initiator will want to include as well retired alumni and emeriti faculty in the area.

Organizers are well advised to solicit active involvement from community leaders. Current and retired political figures, officers of senior citizen clubs, staff of service organizations, and religious leaders are examples of who can assist in developing and promoting the Institute.


The major investment remains the time of the initiator(s). Additional costs include mailings to potential member-organizers, informational meetings with prospective members, staff and faculty, and planning meetings with campus leadership. Secretarial time may become an important cost. Organizers might also wish to bring in a consultant from an established LLI to assist in the process.


Phase III will require three months or more depending on the enthusiasm of the working group and the level of support from a host campus. The goals are to design the Institute and put together the first semester of operation.

At this time the organizing group of an LLI that has an academic host should begin to establish relationships with the Human Resources, Business, Facilities and Registrar offices of the host institution. The relationship between the host and the LLI should be one of mutual give and take, with wonderful benefits for both. It's also important to remember that host administrations change. A new one may not be as enlightened about the value of having an LLI on campus. To protect against this, forging bonds with those in "second tier" positions would be an excellent strategic move on the part of new LLIs.This is the time to send in your Application for Affiliation to the EIN.

Twenty to thirty actively involved members are desirable, with a smaller group of six to ten recognized leaders who have been elected or appointed. This is the group who will take on the task of putting the Institute in place. The work might be divided into phases, with specific developmental tasks falling into each phase:

Correspond with Other Institutes - Visit If Possible
• make decisions on the nature of the new Institute
• develop a governance structure
• determine physical space for programs/administration
• formalize a relationship with the host campus
• recruit/interview potential study group/course leaders
• spread the word of the potential Institute to friends

Select the Initial Set of Study Groups/Courses
• design initial program brochure
• develop a working budget for first year
• set Institute fees/charges
• raise funds as needed

Publicize the Institute in the Community
• press releases
• open house on campus
• posters
• radio interviews
• presentations to senior groups
• register initial members
• organize opening social

Planning costs grow as this phase proceeds. Basic needs to be addressed include:
• Office Space/Equipment. There will need to be a central place where organizers have access to a desk, telephone, typewriter or word processor, and photocopying.
• Promotion/Publicity. Once the first semester program has been drafted, a brochure will need to be designed and printed. Mailings will need to be done to prospective members. Adequate lead time will allow these to be done at bulk rate. Organizers may wish to make themselves available as well to speak to local clubs and organizations and to interview for local media.

The first semester might begin as early as six months from the original conception of the Institute, or it may take as long as one-two years to bring the LLI to fruition.

Most Institutes run on a semester calendar, with study groups/courses extending from eight to fifteen weeks. The major tasks for the leadership during the first semester are:
• Organizing committees
• Planning the second session/semester program
• Implementing the governance structure
• Building/Modifying/Strengthening/Formalizing the relationship with the host campus
• Continued promotion/publicity
• Generating social interaction among the membership

The experience of existing Institutes suggests that direct start-up costs should not exceed $3,000. With an active group of member organizers doing much of the groundwork, direct expenses can be kept to a minimum until the first semester is under way and revenues are being generated from membership dues.

The following presentation of Institute budgeting is based on the premise that the an Institute will be required to cover direct expenses in its third full year. By the fifth year mature Institutes may be expected to pay direct expenses and to generate sufficient revenues to provide a reasonable reimbursement to the sponsoring institution for space and administrative overhead.

No discussion of finances can be divorced from two related considerations: size and the degree of volunteer leadership. Size will depend on at least three critical factors:

  1. The size and number of classrooms available;
  2. The size of the pool of potential members in a surrounding community; and
  3. The desires of the membership relative to size.

How high the membership dues are is tied to the extent to which the Institute will be managed by the volunteer efforts of the members. Institutes which maintain low annual dues (less than $100) rely heavily on volunteer leadership. Institutes which rely upon administration by paid professional staff must set higher dues.

To establish first year dues it is important to consider what the Institute's needs will be in the future. EIN recommends that first year dues be no lower than $75 - $100 per person. Experience suggests that initial dues tend to set future expectations; it is difficult to implement large increases in membership dues once the Institute is in place. If membership targets are achieved and an initial surplus is initially generated, it may be used to cushion future increases, provide scholarships or create additional member activities or services.




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