Bernard Osher Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Bernard Osher Foundation supports Lifelong Learning Institutes for adults 50 and older, features an arts and education program, and funds a select group of higher education “integrative medicine programs.”

IP TAKE: For most programs, the foundation does not accept letters of inquiry, but is receptive to letters of introduction. The only exception is its Arts and Education program, which accepts unsolicited inquiries but only funds projects in either Maine or California's Alameda and San Francisco counties.

PROFILE: California businessman Bernard Osher advocates for higher education and the arts, and for more than 35 years has supported both through the foundation that bears his name. The Osher Foundation says it “seeks to improve quality of life through support for higher education and the arts...with special attention to reentry students.” This objective is realized through four program areas: Scholars and Fellows, Lifelong Learning Institutes, Integrative Medicine, and Local Arts and Education.

Osher’s first program, Scholars and Fellows, “provides support for undergraduate students who have experienced a gap in their education of at least five years.” The foundation offers these grants through a select list of partner institutions. Reviewing this list prior to applying is critical, since the class of eligible student (graduate, undergraduate, community college transfer, re-entry, etc.) is institution-specific. Grant seekers apply directly to the school, not to the foundation itself. Additional restrictions and priorities may apply.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes support “non-credit courses and activities specifically developed for seasoned adults aged 50 or older who are interested in learning for the joy of learning.” More than 100 Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes operate at colleges and universities across the country, with at least one in each of the 50 states. Osher is not currently looking to set up new centers, but is willing to consider expanding in the future.

Osher’s third program, Integrative Medicine, focuses on “education, research, and clinical services” that “emphasize the combined use of modern medicine with complementary therapies and established healing practices to promote health and wellness.” Through this program, the foundation has established several centers for integrative medicine. As with its Lifelong Learning Institutes, Osher is not currently looking to set up new centers, but will accept a two- to three-page summary of an institution’s work for future reference.

The final education program at Osher, Local Arts and Education, has broadly defined goals but a relatively narrow geographic focus. In the past, the foundation has supported “performing arts groups, literary programs, educational and environmental groups, and social service organizations.” Its current focus is on “arts and educational organizations,” and only in the state of Maine and the counties of San Francisco and Alameda in California. This is the only program that accepts unsolicited letters of inquiry, which are received “on a rolling basis.”

Osher is not transparent about the size of its grants and scholarships. Individual grantseekers from partner schools should check with their school’s financial aid office.

Grantseekers should be aware that Osher is not currently looking to expand its programs, but may do so in the future.

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