English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Five 1 Unit Five Core Text Higher Education in the USA There are more than 4,000 public and private colleges, universities, and community colleges in the United States, including over 600 public four-year colleges and universities and over 1,650 private four-year colleges and universities. These traditional institutions enroll nearly 15 million students. In addition, more than 6,250 other non-collegiate postsecondary institutions offer specialized vocational and technical training. This article will take a closer look at public universities, community colleges and special institutions. Public Universities Large public universities in the United States, also referred to as state universities, are closely identified with and supported by the states in which they are located. They are exciting, dynamic, and highly regarded centers for higher education, with unique traditions and connections to their communities. They are also major magnets for talent from all over the country and the world. Typically, universities of this type enroll tens of thousands of students. They produce the majority of graduate and professional degrees in the country, as well as a significant number of undergraduate degrees. Also common to large public universities are a wide range of academic programs. To use my own institution as an example, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus has 50,000 students, offers hundreds of degrees, and is a leader in fields as varied as neurology and transplant surgery, economics and political science, material sciences and nanotechnology, and agriculture and natural resources. Public universities play a critical role in regional economic, cultural, and civic development, and many, such as the University of Minnesota, are deeply involved in advancing knowledge and technology through research. These universities are among the major research universities in the United States and frequently have major involvement in international programs around the world. A series of federal actions in the second half of the 19th century provided resources to states to help establish and build universities. Public universities that arose from this federal largesse have a mandate to provide outreach and community engagement to the state in which they are located (e.g.,
English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Five 2 technology transfer, support to agriculture, interaction with primary and secondary schools, and interaction with state and local policy makers). The level of research intensity varies greatly among state universities. Competitive research grants and contracts awarded to the most prestigious public universities typically amount to hundreds of millions of dollars each year. There is also great variation in the level of support from the states. State universities with large research budgets typically receive 10 to 30 percent of their budgets from the state in which they are located. The remaining portion of their budget comes from tuition and fees, grants/contracts, and gifts. As a result of the financing structure of large state universities, many graduate students receive financial aid through research assistantships associated with research grants and contracts received by the university. Although many public universities are seeking increased funding to support international exchanges and study, access to financial aid for international students is very limited outside of the aforementioned research/grant funding. Since undergraduates do not generally hold research assistantships, scholarship support for international students seeking undergraduate degrees is quite limited at these public universities. Large state universities are located in a variety of communities, from modest towns to large metropolitan areas. Many universities also have multiple campuses at locations throughout their state, and many states also have more than one public university system. Public universities are governed by boards of trustees or regents, with varying reporting responsibility to the state government. Unlike in many other countries, these U.S. universities don't report to a federal-level education minister, and higher education policy is largely delegated to the states, with the important exceptions of federal student financial aid and research funding through federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and many other federal agencies. Some traditions of public universities in the United States are quite different from those in other countries. Even at these state-supported institutions, students have traditionally paid for part of their education through tuition and fees, and these costs to students are increasing. Today the average student takes out loans in order to help pay for his or her education. Private fundraising plays an increasingly important role in funding projects, scholarships, and positions at public universities. Finally, intercollegiate athletics attract intense interest from students, alumni, and members of the general public, and athletic events generate additional revenue. Among all U.S. universities, large state universities often include the largest percentage of international students and scholars. At the University of Minnesota, our community includes more than 4,500 international students and scholars from about 130 countries.
English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Five 3 The University of Minnesota provides support services such as counseling and advising on personal and academic issues, orientation to U.S. and university culture, immigration and visa advising, and English as a second language courses, as well as programs and workshops on a variety of topics including intercultural understanding and communication. Many state universities have similar programs in place to help students navigate what can sometimes be a confusing system of administration and academic regulation, although the scope of these services varies from institution to institution. Community Colleges Community colleges are the gateway to higher education in the United States for a growing number of students. These colleges provide students with an opportunity to earn credits for the first two years of a four-year bachelor's degree at high-quality, accredited institutions. With their lower tuition costs, community colleges give students a way to save money while learning in a supportive environment. They also allow students to access training for associate-degree or non-degree careers, and they offer continuing education and personal development classes for the broad spectrum of adult learners. Community colleges are the largest and fastest-growing sector of higher education in the United States. There are now nearly 1,200 regionally accredited community colleges located throughout the country, serving more than 11 million students (approximately 46 percent of all U.S. undergraduates). U.S. community colleges offer international students numerous benefits, including opportunities to improve English language skills and to build an understanding of American culture in a U.S. community. Among the benefits of community colleges are: Lower Cost. Tuition costs are significantly lower than four-year colleges and universities (about $5,000 per year as compared to $12,000 to $20,000 or more for a four-year institution). Easy Transfer to a University. A "2+2" system in the United States refers to an efficient system of "articulation" between a two-year college and a four-year college or university. Most community colleges have articulation agreements with four-year colleges and universities, ensuring that credits earned at the community college will count toward the four-year degree program.
English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Five 4 Accredited Institutions. American community colleges, four-year colleges, and major universities are all accredited by the same agencies. That is why universities accept course credits obtained at community colleges. Wide Variety of Programs. Community colleges have hundreds of majors from which to choose, including popular areas such as business management, computer science, engineering, and health sciences-related programs. English as a Second Language. Most community colleges offer a wide range of English course offerings at multiple levels and an array of support services to ensure that students with different language proficiencies succeed. A Supportive Learning Environment. Community colleges offer small class sizes, averaging fewer than 30 students, allowing personal attention and ongoing support from professors. The focus is on individual student success within an environment designed to support students' learning patterns and needs. Support services for students include tutoring, advising, writing labs, international student clubs, and international student service centers. Diversity. U.S. community college students come from diverse cultural heritages and ethnicities. The colleges offer a wide spectrum of clubs and activities that celebrate and support the diversity that describes society in the United States. Access to U.S. Culture. Because they are reflective of and responsive to their communities, community colleges tend to have strong local ties. This relationship provides international students with extensive opportunities to interact with Americans and to experience American culture. Variety of Locations and Campus Sizes. Community colleges, like other educational institutions in the United States, differ widely. Some are large, multicampus institutions located in big cities, while others are much smaller schools located in rural settings and serving small student populations. There is a community college conveniently located within commuting distance of 90 percent of the U.S. population. Distinguished Alumni. Alumni of U.S. community colleges include California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, NASA space shuttle commander Eileen Collins, Star Wars movie series producer/director George Lucas, film actors Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood, fashion designer Calvin Klein, human genome scientist Craig Venter, and U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona.
English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Five 5 Specialty Institutions While most American universities offer a broad range of studies, others feature more focused curricula. Specializing in distinct areas, such as the fine and performing arts, business and technological skills, or military training, these schools of special focus afford students the prospect of concentrating their studies in a particular area. This approach is not ideal for every student, but for some the right specialty school nurtures exceptional talents, hones particular skills, and affords the chance to interact with similarly inclined peers. The institutions profiled here represent only a few of the available opportunities. Located in New York City, the highly selective Juilliard School offers its students pre-professional training in music, dance, and drama. It draws students from 43 U.S. states and 43 other nations, and it includes among its many notable alumni the classical artists Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, and Pinchas Zukerman; seminal jazz figures like Thelonious Monk and Wynton Marsalis; and vocalists from the classical soprano Leontyne Price to the deep-voiced jazz vocalist Nina Simone. Since 1971, the school has been located in Manhattan's Lincoln Center, considered by many the nation's premier arts complex and home, in addition to Juilliard, of the Metropolitan Opera, New York Philharmonic, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and eight other resident artistic organizations. Students seeking careers in design and the arts are attracted to schools like SCAD and Juilliard. Many others seek skills to help them advance in the business world or in the growing technological sector. Often these students are older and already employed. A number of for-profit "proprietary institutions" serve their needs. Schools like DeVry University, which holds classes online and at more than 70 campuses, offer practical instruction, often through part-time or adjunct faculty who also hold full-time professional employment outside the university. Proprietary schools typically accommodate the busy schedules of parents and working students by holding many classes on nights and weekends and by encouraging part-time study. Computer science and programming, business, and other technology-related fields of study are popular. Some American employers offer full or partial tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing continuing studies, with the master's degree in business administration a popular option. Most U.S. universities are either private institutions or are sponsored by state or, sometimes, local governments. The federal government, however, runs the nation's military academies, including the U.S. Military Academy, affiliated with the Army; the Air Force and Naval Academies; and the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine Academies.
English Speaking Countries Today – America Unit Five 6 Admission to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, to offer one example, is highly selective, with students (known as midshipmen) appointed to the school by each member of Congress, the president and vice president of the United States, and the secretary of the Navy. Midshipmen must meet age, physical conditioning, and academic requirements and must be unmarried. U.S. citizenship is also required, although up to 60 students from foreign countries designated by the secretary of defense may be admitted in the interest of international and navy-to-navy relations. Women have been eligible for admission since 1976, and about one-fifth of the entering class of 2009 is female. Each midshipman receives free tuition and board, plus a monthly stipend. The academic program stresses mathematics, engineering, and naval skills, and many midshipmen choose nautical-related majors like oceanography, aerospace engineering, or naval architecture. Others focus their studies on history, economics, or other available disciplines. Graduates receive commissions either as U.S. Navy ensigns or Marine second lieutenants and are obliged to serve a minimum of six years active duty. This brief account only suggests the variety of postsecondary education available in the United States. Specialty institutions complement research and liberal arts schools by catering to nontraditional students like part-timers, parents, and the already-employed. Also, their often more-focused curricula can help gifted and purpose-driven students develop their talents and pursue their professional objectives.