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Continuing Education: Bill of Fare for the Chicago Feast

“The aim of education is to enable individuals to continue their education. . .[and] the object and reward of learning is continued capacity for growth.”—John Dewey “Education is the best provision for old age”—Aristotle

Has learning about the Fauvist painters long been on your agenda? Or studying ancient Greek philosophy and literature? Getting some statistical training for your job, perhaps, or brushing up your high school Spanish? If you live in the Chicago metropolitan area, a wealth of continuing education programs is at your fingertips. Contrary to what you may think, you need not be in a degree program or even possess a degree to take advantage of most of these opportunities.
The dean of the local options is the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies (www.grahamschool. uchicago.edu, 312-464-8655). Founded in 1892 as one of the first continuing education programs in the country, the Graham School “seeks to extend the university’s academic values to as wide an audience as possible.” Some students in Graham earn M.A.’s or prepare for graduate school, but many just take courses from the large sampling of possibilities, which includes such options as “Kafka and Borges: A Parallel Reading” and “Plato’s Laws.” U. of C. faculty teach most of the courses, the bulk of which meet at the Gleacher Center, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive, along the river in downtown Chicago. Tuition varies, but prices are reasonable, often around $300 for a course. Every year Graham also sponsors a number of short lecture series by well-known scholars, for which the fee is $70 for three lectures. Sessions meet throughout the academic year and in the summer.
The School of Continuing Studies at Northwestern (www.scs.northwestern.edu ) has been in existence since 1933. More degree-oriented than the Graham School, the Northwestern program offers undergraduate, post-B.A., and advanced graduate degrees, all of which can be earned in evening and weekend courses on the Evanston and Chicago campuses.  Professional development without a degree is also an option. The prices are high, commensurate with the standard Northwestern tuition. One course taken as a student-at-large (sounds sinister, doesn’t it?) cost $1,622 per unit of credit, with most courses averaging three credits. The fee for auditing a course is $811. Some financial assistance is available.
For people over 50, Northwestern offers the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI, 847-492-8204), which is part of a national OLLI Foundation. For a modest membership fee, OLLI offers “a comprehensive curriculum of peer-led study groups that span subjects from literature and history to science, politics, current affairs, philosophy and the arts.” OLLI courses do not have instructors; rather, someone with a passion for a subject serves as a coordinator. Usually OLLI runs approximately 70 study groups each semester, with 10-25 participants in each.  There are no exams and no grades in OLLI, whose motto is “Curiosity Never Retires.” There are no prerequisites for OLLI, just a $550 membership that entitles a person to three study groups a year; $385 buys one group each semester, and $360 buys three in one semester. One trial course in the summer is only $150.  Here, too, some financial assistance is available.
If you’re looking for hands-on creative course work, both Columbia College and the School of the Art Institute have numerous excellent possibilities. Columbia College in the Loop has evolved into a superb urban school with a wealth of courses in such disciplines as art, entertainment, and media management; art and design; writing courses of all sorts; dance; fashion studies; interactive arts and media.  Anyone over 18 “seeking to enhance skills, pursue personal interests, or explore new disciplines” (www.colum.edu/admissions) may become a student-at-large at Columbia, applying online and paying a $35 application fee. Applicants must meet relevant pre-requisites for upper-level courses, which cost $764 per credit hour for the current school year, $612 per credit hour in the summer. Columbia also offers graduate programs in most creative fields, tailored to meet the work schedules of active professionals.
In the Adult Continuing Education program in the School of the Art Institute (www.saic.edu/cs/ace, 312-629-6170), individuals may pursue degree programs, but numerous noncredit courses exist as well, many offered at night and on weekends, involving such skills as architecture, design concepts, drawing, fashion design, and analyzing works of art. The current fee is $560 for 5 to10-week courses, with some financial assistance available.
Another option for hands-on art courses is the Evanston Art Center (www.evanstonartcenter.org, 847-475-5300). Located along Lake Michigan in North Evanston, the Art Center offers a wide variety of studio art classes for people of all ages. Tuition is modest, running on average about $300 per course.
In the West Loop, the UIC School of Continuing Studies “helps Chicago’s professional community stay abreast of cutting edge knowledge and practice” (www.oce.uic.edu, 312-996-8025). Offering a large assortment of choices, the UIC program makes it easy for prospective students to participate in enrichment courses without going through a formal application process.  In this year’s spring quarter, the cost of a course is $461 per credit hour, with most classes earning 3-4 credits. Many classes meet at night or on the weekend, with a blend of coursework, job experience, and professional development.
The DePaul University Continuing and Professional Education Program (www.learning.depaul.edu, 312-362-6300) offers a number of cutting-edge courses and certificate programs for busy professionals. For example, this spring one could earn a certificate in grant writing in a 10-week course costing $1,295. Another option is the Negotiation Strategies and Skills Certificate Program, a 4-week course for which tuition is $765. Some of the DePaul courses, such as a series on financial planning, are available online. A part of DePaul’s program is the School for New Learning (SNL), which will customize undergraduate and graduate degree programs for people aged 24 and older, allowing them to satisfy their degree requirements.
The Loyola University School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS)(www.luc.edu/adult-education) is this year celebrating its 100th anniversary. Located in the heart of Chicago next to the Water Tower, SCPS offers degree programs, professional certificates, and individual courses. Tailored to accommodate professional schedules, SCPS offers such options as paralegal studies and education courses. The usual cost is $630 per credit hour. Loyola also has a more informal continuing education program that offers quick courses and lectures in such fields as history and gardening, often in intriguing venues, though this branch of SCPS is “under construction” for the current spring quarter.
In the Loop, Roosevelt University (www.roosevelt.edu) offers a number of adult education courses in such fields as business, marketing and paralegal studies. They harmonize with the schedules of working people.
In nearby Lisle, the Benedictine University Moser College of Adult and Professional Studies (www.ben.edu) has as its mission “to address the educational needs of adult students by developing and providing engaging, relevant and accelerated programs.” Moser offers a variety of practical courses, such as several in business and marketing, as well as an English as a Second Language Endorsement program.
With so many local options available for further professional training or pursuing a passion, it’s almost a crime not to sample them. Henry Ford, that truth-telling American icon, was probably on to something when he said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” So why not dig in?

Published: April 25, 2014
Issue: Spring 2014 Issue