Lifelong learners at Tucson Oasis will have to go somewhere else to get an education.

The lifelong learning program that targets those age 50 and older will close Dec. 20, said David Eppihimer, the executive director of the Tucson branch.

Part of the national, nonprofit Oasis Institute that engages senior adults in service, education and health, Tucson Oasis began struggling when Macy’s department store pulled its funding from the national program in 2010, leaving local branches to mostly fend for themselves.

The Tucson board voted in September to end its classes in arts, humanities and wellness after deciding that local donations, class tuition and subsidies from the national organization no longer could support the program without raising tuition costs to an unsustainable level.

“The space that we occupied was in low-cost classes,” Eppihimer said. “We had managed to keep prices quite low because of support from Macy’s.”

An average class at Oasis cost about $20, with individual classes costing as little as $5. The longer, multisession classes, particularly art studios, could be as expensive as $100.

Oasis came to Tucson in 1989, running out of the El Con Mall until moving to its current facility in the Junior League Building, 2099 E. River Road, in 2008.

That main classroom facility will close when the current trimester ends on Dec. 20. The corresponding shift to an organization run only by volunteers will cost Eppihimer and his assistant director their jobs.

Other Oasis offerings will continue. In partnership with the Pima County Public Library, Oasis will continue to teach technology-skills classes to the community. Catch Healthy Habits — health education for kids — will continue working with the library system, the Tucson Unified School District and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson. Intergenerational Tutoring will still connect senior adults with elementary-school children for tutoring at six school districts.

The lifelong learning center has several remaining classes on the schedule until its official stop date. To register, go to

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at or 573-4357.

Writing about Tucson's heart and soul — its people, its kindness, its faith — for #ThisIsTucson.