Academy for Lifelong Learning

Frequently Asked Questions...And Answers

Two members speaking.

What is the Academy for Lifelong Learning at Saratoga Springs (A.L.L.)?

A.L.L. is a nonprofit membership organization formed to meet the educational and cultural needs of its members. This is accomplished through peer-led study groups and a social program. We emphasize participatory learning -- small study groups of men and women who learn from each other about topics of common interest. We provide academic course work on a non-credit basis. There are no exams, term papers or prerequisites.

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Who are the members and where do they come from?

The Academy is open to all persons who share a love of learning and enjoy getting together to continue their studies regardless of the extent of their formal education. Most of our members are over 50 years old and live in the Saratoga/Capital Region, but we attract people from as far away as Bennington, VT and Olmstedville in the Adirondacks.

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How do I apply and what are the qualifications for membership?

For current brochure and application form, click the link or call the A.L.L. office at 518 587-2100 ext. 2415. Fall brochures are posted by July 1, and spring brochures are posted by December 15.

Membership is open to all persons upon payment of dues. There are no requirements for admission based on education, career background, or age, although most of our members are 50 years old or older. We do, however, encourage individuals who enjoy actively participating in class discussion and are willing to serve as study group leaders or on one of A.L.L.'s committees.

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What are the terms, levels and benefits of membership?

REGULAR MEMBERSHIP: You may join for a full Academy year (September through August) or for one term at a time.

Full year $240
Fall only $140
Spring only $140


  • work and learn with stimulating people with similar intellectual interests
  • enroll in a maximum of three* courses per person in each term
  • attend Lunch and Learns and social events
  • join A.L.L.'s Special Interest Groups (SIGs)
  • receive discount cards to local businesses and restaurants
  • receive and contribute to Academy Notes, A.L.L.'s newsletter
  • serve on A.L.L. committees
  • submit work for consideration in The Apple Tree, the Academy’s literary and art journal
  • annual members may register online for the spring term
  • vote at the annual meeting

*Academy member may enroll in a third course in any term. However, such added enrollments are only possible on a space available basis after all first choice and second choice requests have been honored. Placements are announced before the term begins.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERSHIP: $40 per term (nonrefundable)

(For individuals who are unable to attend study groups)  


  • support A.L.L.
  • attend Lunch and Learns, socials and other programs during the term
  • join A.L.L.'s Special Interest Groups (SIGs)
  • receive discount cards to local businesses and restaurants
  • receive Academy Notes, the A.L.L, newsletter
  • serve on A.L.L. committees
  • submit work for consideration in The Apple Tree
  • vote at the annual meeting

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Are scholarships available?

Yes. Half and full scholarships to cover membership dues are available each term on a confidential basis to applicants demonstrating financial need for all study groups except day-trip study groups.

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How do members participate in the Academy?

Members design, lead and/or participate in study groups on many subjects and in many formats. Academy study groups are seldom lectures because we believe active participation in learning is more fun. Members are usually expected (but not required) to join with others in discussion, research or brief presentations.

Members also serve on committees that coordinate each term's curriculum, set membership dues, publicize the program, organize social and special events and plan for the Academy's future. Others enjoy helping in the office, planning bus trips, and organizing Special Interest Groups (SIGs).

Still other members may serve as class liaisons, assistants, and photographers or write articles for Academy Notes, the A.L.L. newsletter.

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What are the study groups like?

The study groups are small, usually no more than 25 participants and a leader. The travel group and choral groups needing many voices are larger. Writing, studio art, computer and other groups requiring more individual attention have a maximum of 15 participants. To encourage participation, the format is seldom lecture, but rather discussion or research and reports.

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When and where do study groups meet?

The fall term runs mid September until mid November. The spring term runs from the beginning of April until the end of May. Classes are held during the daytime on Mondays through Thursdays. All-day groups include hiking groups and day trip groups. Study groups are held in the Empire State College buildings at 111 and 113 West Avenue and at other locations in the Saratoga Springs area.

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Are there any other organizations in the U.S. like A.L.L.?

The Academy is one of over 375 Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLIs) affiliated with the Elderhostel Institute Network Based in local communities throughout the country and Canada, LLIs share Elderhostel's mission to provide quality educational experiences for older adults. Each LLI is usually sponsored by a local college or university.

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What is A.L.L.'s relationship to Elderhostel?

A.L.L. is related to Elderhostel through the Elderhostel Institute Network , which is a group of independent Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLIs) that share Elderhostel's mission of providing quality educational experiences for older adults. But, while Elderhostel is a travel program of intense study over a short period of time, A.L.L. and other LLIs are centered in local communities and offer study groups over several weeks duration, and, therefore, can go into topics in greater depth. Another difference is that LLI members make all the decisions about their individual programs, i.e., curriculum, dues and governance structure, etc. Also, A.L.L. is distinctive since all its study groups are participatory and peer led.

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If I join, will I have to lead a study group?

No, there is no requirement for course leadership to be a member of A.L.L. Members often find, however, that after several terms attending study groups they would like the challenge and reward of leading a group. Prior teaching experience is not necessary. The curriculum committee, experienced leaders and the executive director offer guidance and support for new and prospective leaders. Also, the Academy has published a Study Group Leaders Handbook which guides a prospective leader through the process from conception of the original idea for a study group to the final evaluation of the course. After leading one course, most leaders are anxious to develop another topic into a study group.

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What makes A.L.L. different from other college programs for senior learners?

  • All facets of the program are geared to the interests and needs of the members
  • A.L.L. is participatory learning.
  • A.L.L. is peer learning.
  • Members decide the curriculum.
  • Members decide the fees and scheduling.
  • Study groups are all member-led.
  • Each member has the opportunity to lead a study group.
  • Classes are small, allowing more opportunity for participation.
  • The format is seldom lecture.
  • Terms are shorter than traditional college semesters.
  • There are no term papers or exams.
  • All study groups are held during the daytime.
  • No study groups are held during the winter months.
  • There is a social component.

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Can I earn a college degree from A.L.L.?

No. A.L.L. is a noncredit, nondegree program. Members attend study groups for the pure joy of learning.

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How can I find out more about the Academy for Lifelong Learning?

To learn more about A.L.L., contact the Academy office at 518 587-2100 ext. 2415 or send specific questions by e-mail to Executive Director Jeff Shinaman at

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