Everything you didn't know about the US education system

April 8, 2014
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • AACRAO Connect
  • International Admissions and Credential Evaluation

Mike Reilly, Executive Director, AACRAO, welcomed nearly 20 international attendees to the AACRAO Annual Meeting at the preconference workshop "US Education for International Participants" with a brief history of the organization focusing specifically on its international work.

Most of the attendees hailed from countries where a Ministry of Higher Education regulates how students progress through their education system and when they receive degrees. Dale Gough, Director, AACRAO IES, was sure to highlight this key difference in the US education system during his presentation on how students progress through the US educational system. Education is a state not federal obligation in the US allowing institutions to act autonomously. This point led to a robust question and answer session where attendees grappled with the differences between being degreed, licensed, and accredited and how these things can be different depending on where you are in the US.

Who is in charge? What does the Department of Education do, if not regulate education?

Understandably, the attendees were confused why the Department exists if it does not regulate education nor oversee accreditation. After much discussion, the answer was simple: The Department is charged with establishing policies on federal financial aid for education and distributing and monitoring those funds. So, although an institution may exist without accreditation and degree students, it will not receive federal funding and its students will not receive financial aid.

It was noted the autonomy of US higher education institutions is unique on the global higher education scene. This attribute allows, for example, some institutions to admit ethnic groups not recognized by a Ministry of Education for racial reasons in countries such as Iran. The Bahá’ís of Iran have established their own institute for higher education BIHE). Although not recognized by the Ministry, US institutions because of their autonomy have the ability to accept or deny transfer credit from a Bahá’í school unlike other countries who would have to follow regulation of their Ministry.

What is US education without privacy laws?

Leroy Rooker, AACRAO Senior Fellow, was also on hand to provide a FERPA overview for the international attendees. He explained key terms such as “education record” and “student.” He also noted FERPA applies to all levels of education: primary, secondary, and post secondary. However, until age 18 the privacy belongs to the parent unless the student enrolls at a post secondary institution.

The session wrapped up with an introduction to EducationUSA and how it can be of service to foreign institutions. With advisers in 400 centers in 170 countries providing free, accurate, comprehensive, and current information about study at over 4,500 accredited US institutions, EdUSA showed attendees how they could help establish connections abroad for their students. The EdUSA advantage: Students who use EdUSA make better decisions. They are more likely to select good-fitting schools, complete their applications, plan their finances, be honest, prepare for university life, qualify for student visas, enroll, graduate, and return home.