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FAU's Lifelong Learning Society shows constant growth

While the economy has hurt many people financially, it has had little effect on the quest for knowledge among students in the Lifelong Learning Society.

The organization’s faculty and staff has seen enrollment numbers significantly increase within the past year. More than 20,000 students have enrolled on FAU's campuses during the year, including 10,000 in the winter term. That's a substantial jump from the 20 students who were enrolled in the first year of the program in 1980.

“Not everyone plays golf or cards,” said Kami Barrett, assistant director of the society in Jupiter. “It keeps their minds young and gives them an opportunity to interact and socialize.”

Barrett said that students come back to school for the enjoyment of learning and for a missed opportunity that may not have been available to them previously.

“The students are from a generation that values education,” Barrett said. “Some of the women attend because they may not have been able to attend college before.”

The love of learning is evident. In the beginning of the program, students met in churches, community centers and movie theaters. The seating accommodations have since expanded to a 500-seat auditorium and three classrooms on the FAU campus in Jupiter. Barrett said the land was donated by the state, but all of the money for the classrooms was raised by students – a total of $6 million.

Both the Jupiter and Boca Raton campuses are experiencing increased enrollment. Professor Jeffrey Morton’s American Policy class has 1,355 students registered in the 2009 winter term. An additional 100 students attend each week as visitors.

Morton, who has been teaching classes for the program since 1995, has seen the numbers grow over time. His first class had 75 students.

He said his class expanded after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and again following the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“Issues such as terrorism, immigration, and international economics make foreign policy of great interest to American citizens,” Morton said.

Morton’s class is so full that the designated classrooms are not large enough to hold everyone. His class is held in the Student Union on the Boca Raton campus. When he teaches in Jupiter, the 500-seat auditorium overflows to additional classrooms in which his lectures are broadcast on video projection screens.

With so many students showing interest in Lifelong Learning classes, planning for a summer session in Boca Raton has begun. According to Virginia Huntzinger, interim assistant provost, 73 percent of current students surveyed are interested in attending summer classes.

Huntzinger, who has worked with the program for 28 years, says that while many ordinary college students take school for granted, she is proud of the effort made by the society’s students that “love to learn.”

“It’s amazing to me,” she said.

She said the summer session will run for six weeks beginning at the end of May.




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