LSU students stock

LSU students navigate campus between classes, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.

After half a century, LSU is ending leisure courses touted as a way for young and old to learn skills like Cajun dancing, digital photography and how to speak Italian.

Ernie Ballard, a spokesman for LSU, said Tuesday classes offered during the fall semester will be the last of their kind.

"Unfortunately, online programs and area workshops have provided many opportunities that used to not exist outside of leisure courses, and interest has dropped," Ballard said in an email.

"As costs to put on the courses increase, coupled with outside competition, it wasn't viable for us to continue," he said.

LSU President F. King Alexander, after an appearance before the Louisiana Board of Regents, said he was not familiar with the decision to end the courses.

The current list of offerings include book binding, soap making and woodworking.

Others are acrylic painting, stained glass and a class entitled clay: wheel throwing.

"Get really muddy and sling some clay in this basic wheel throwing class," according to the course description.

"Learn to make functional pieces such as vases, cups and bowls," it says. "Make your own unique tableware or handcrafted gifts, guaranteed to impress your friends!"

The class in beginning Italian promised participants "greater proficiency and confidence in the language. If you know a little Italian but want to learn more, this is the opportunity you've been waiting for!"

The non-credit classes were typically held during weeknights and weekends at the LSU Student Union.

Sessions ranged from one to 10 gatherings. Some required modest fees. Others included age requirements.

The classes were aimed at students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

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Anyone could launch their own classes if the topic generated enough interest, and approval from LSU.

The courses began in 1968, according to a "message to our friends" last week from Lynne Maxwell, who is part of the Leisure Arts Studio staff.

"Unfortunately, it is no longer financially feasible to offer our programs at a reasonable cost to cover instructional costs, equipment and materials, and overhead for the studio space and staff," Maxwell wrote.

She said similar classes are offered by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at LSU.

"The program was always about the participants, and we hope we have achieved our main goal of enriching your lives through hands-on participation in leisure and arts activities," she said.

The Osher program offers non-credit, educational programs for those 50 and older.

The offerings are touted as "intellectually stimulating courses and opportunities."

Neither current enrollment in leisure courses nor how many people signed up at the peak of the program were immediately available.

The decision to end the classes left some disappointed.

"This program was my introduction to Baton Rouge and I love the class I'm currently taking and was looking forward to taking other classes available," Shelby Russell said in an email.

"This feels like a major blow to those of us who have graduated college but are not done learning," she said. 

"So many of these courses were fun and educational, and I loved that they were offered during different times of the week and day so that anyone's schedule could be accommodated."

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.