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EDUCATION REPORT - Studying in the US: A Free Year at a Community College

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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Two-year colleges in the United States are also known as community colleges. Students earn an associate degree. Or they can train for a job for a year or two and get a certificate.

Community colleges are less costly than other schools. Some international students can even get a year of education for free. The United States government and the colleges pay the costs in a program called the Community College Initiative.

Six countries took part during the first two years: Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa and Turkey. Now those countries are joined by Cuba, Ghana and most of Central America. Local Fulbright committees generally nominate the students.

Davidson County Community College in Lexington, North Carolina, is a member of the Community Colleges for International Development
Davidson County Community College in Lexington, North Carolina, is a member of the Community Colleges for International Development

The program provides job training for people who otherwise could not attend college. They learn skills their countries need, like agriculture and health care. Vocational school teachers and administrators from Egypt can also receive professional development through the program.

The program began two years ago with eighty-four students and six colleges. State Department officials say more than five hundred students will attend thirty-seven community colleges this fall.

Where students are placed depends on what they want to study. The program is also a chance to learn about America and its people. And it gives colleges a way to expand their diversity. The students live in dormitories or apartments or with local families.

Carol Stax-Brown is an administrator of the program for a group called Community Colleges for International Development. She says they look for people who have had some work experience, speak some English and want to experience another culture. The program includes English classes in the summer before school starts for those who need them.

Carol Stax-Brown says colleges in some countries might accept credits from the program. But this is not a way to immediately transfer to four-year colleges and universities in other countries, including the United States. Students cannot return to the United States for two years after they finish their year of study.

A Web page is being developed for information on the Community College Initiative. For now, students from countries in the program should contact their local Fulbright committee or United States embassy.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. Earlier reports in our Foreign Student Series are at www.unsv.com. I'm Steve Ember.

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