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Education group, library look to partner

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The sponsors of a Columbus adult education program are looking at expanding the services it offers, with changes possibly going into effect as soon as this fall.

Partners in Education program offers 35 to 40 non-credit classes each year from September through November that are tailored toward providing continuing education for those age 50 and older.

Courses range in topic, offering the opportunity to learn about anything from basic pottery to wine appreciation to the Cold War, and usually are selected by a steering committee each year, providing some variation.

In the fall of 2013, the program had anywhere from 300 to 350 people submit 700 registrations, said Bob Pitman, executive director of the Mill Race Center, which leads the program along with Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus and IUPUC.

Pitman said the number of registrations was up about 20 percent from the previous year. He said while there has been fluctuation in registration numbers that generally depends on what specific classes are offered, the program recently has seen growth.

The program’s sponsors are hoping to continue that growth and will host a meeting Thursday morning to discuss the continuation and possible expansion of Partners in Education.

Pitman said the meeting partially will focus on how to add the Bartholomew County Public Library to the program’s leadership team to help in the planning process. The sponsors don’t have any specific figures in mind yet, he said, and the partnership could mean offering joint classes or putting out advertising jointly.

The hope in pairing up, he said, is to allow for an expanded number of courses over what could be a longer time period. He said that would provide people with more opportunities for continuing education.

The 50-plus population that Mill Race Center serves, Pitman said, is more involved and more interested in “educational pursuits.” He said they can fulfill that interest through the Partners in Education program and educational programs through the library, among other things.

Bringing the library into the planning process made sense because it already offers similar programs, he said, and the organizations would “like to see if there’s more that we can do together.”

The county library is “super excited” about the possibility of joining the partnership because continuing education is a large part of its mission, said Jason Hatton, the library’s assistant director.

He said it’s “absolutely crucial for everybody at all ages to continue that learning (process)” and that the library would like to be involved in Partners in Education in “whatever way we can.”

Hatton said the library’s participation might depend on some things, including a change in the fee structure for the classes the program offers. Currently, the courses cost at least $10 each, which Pitman said goes to pay for marketing, promotion and administrative support. But Hatton said as a publicly funded institution, the library wants to re-examine that fee.

Pitman said fees also will be part of the discussion during Thursday’s meeting. He said the organizations would like to hear feedback from past participants and those interested in participating, both about fees and about other things, such as the expansion of the program and future course topics.

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