US Education -

Education in the United States is quite varied. Its elementary and secondary schools, in terms of relative quality, stand somewhere in the lower middle of the advanced countries (depending on how such matters are objectively measured), yet there are many excellent schools at this level throughout the country. Schools are publicly funded at the county or city level of government, generally in the form of a tax on property. There are also numerous private schools at this level, most often religiously affiliated and funded through tuition or donations, or a combination of both. Both the organization and the funding of public schools at this level is currently a subject of hot political debate. At the college or university level the United States, by almost any measure, has no peer. The types of universities and colleges run the gamut from large state university systems to a great variety of privately funded colleges and universities. Virtually all colleges and universities are funded by "tuition", that is a fee charged to the student.

However for citizens there are government guaranteed loans, available from most banks at reduced rates of interest, and payments are deferred while the student attends school. Details can be found at the website of the US Department of Education . In addition, schools themselves often provide subsidies, or outright grants, ranging from a small supplement to one hundred percent of the tuition and room and board for very low-income families. Most of this money comes from the universities' "endowments" (gifts donated to the school from former students or from wealthy benefactors). As the most extreme example, Harvard's endowment stands (in 2004) at nearly $20 billion. Many colleges(Harvard is again a notable example)are or were religiously affiliated, and many, though not most, remain so; though today this may be more reflected in spirit than in academic teachings. One reason for the general excellence of these schools is attendance by top caliber foreign students, especially in graduate programs. This also has had a significant beneficial effect on the financing of college level learning, since these students contribute substantially in the form of tuition. Often financial aid for foreign students is provided by their home country, but some aid does exist in the US for international students via private organizations . Usually such programs will require a US citizen to guarantee that this form of assistance will be repaid.

State university systems are subsidized by state governments, and while they are not restricted to residents of the state, residents of that state may attend at sharply reduced rates of tuition. A large state university may have up to twenty campuses spread around the state, with tens of thousands of students. Medium and large cities often have what are known as commuter colleges, oriented towards education for both regular students and for working adults as well. These schools provide little in the way of student housing or a "campus culture," but are beneficial for those unwilling or unable to move away from their current residences. Private technical institutes, which provide an education aimed at obtaining a specific job such as computer science or business management are also quite common. Some of these schools are state subsidized, in full or in part, while others are fully private, with the entire cost born by students in the form of tuition.

Application fees for college usually run from $50-$150, with no guarantee that you will be accepted. Casual students simply looking to improve their knowledge will find city colleges an excellent deal, you can take one or two courses for a few hundred dollars on any of a variety of subjects, and admission is usually open to all comers. Part-time study is usually not sufficient to get a student visa, though; student visas require either half or full time enrollment. There are any number of student exchange programs for full-time students in foreign universities who want to spend a term or a year in the United States. You can ask at your university's student exchange center for details. Be forewarned, however: many of the state universities are located in remote towns, hundreds or thousands of miles from any big urban centers. Be prepared for a lot of small-town living, and don't expect to spend your weekends in New York if your college is in North Dakota. U.S. colleges and universities, almost without exception, operate Web sites (in the .edu domain) with information for visitors. Information on touring a handful has been collected into Touring famous universities in the U.S..

Adapted from WikiTravel under the Wiki License

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