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Lower-Priced Colleges Offer Options to Student Debt

FILE - Students walk across campus at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt. Federal statistics show 43 million people in the United States owe federal student loan debt.
FILE - Students walk across campus at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt. Federal statistics show 43 million people in the United States owe federal student loan debt.

This story was first reported in VOA Learning English.

As tuition and fees have increased sharply in the U.S. over the past 30 years, schools are looking for ways to make college and university more affordable.

Between 1990 and 2012 while college enrollment increased 62 percent, the volume of borrowing for school increased 352 percent, according to the Heritage Foundation. By the end of 2017, according to the Federal Reserve Bank, national student loan debt in the United States was $1.48 trillion.

One popular option is community college. These schools offer a two-year study program that awards an associate’s degree at a cost vastly less expensive than four-year schools. Those credits are typically transferrable to a four-year college or university where a student can achieve a bachelor’s degree.

Some four-year colleges and universities, often public institutions, offer free tuition but ask students to pay for room and board, like housing and food. Books and other school supplies may also be the responsibility of the students, which may add up to an unaffordable package of schools costs from some students.

Some colleges exchange part-time work on campus for lowered tuition and fees.

Berea College in rural Kentucky, does not charge tuition. The school looks for students who would otherwise struggle to pay for college.

“You have to be economically disadvantaged to get in,” Richard Cahill told VOA. He is a history professor and Director of the Center for International Education at Berea.

“We try to take the brightest of economically disadvantaged students to give them a world-class education,” he said.

The college has a history of helping people who have less since 1855. It was started by the Rev. John G. Fee, who opposed slavery. From its beginning, black and white students, male and female, studied together.

Now, there are 1,600 students, and more than 25 percent are black. 7 percent international students from over 70 countries. And "30 foreign students from 3,000 who begin their applications."

Now, there are 1,600 students. Forty percent of Berea College’s student body identifies as a person of color, according to its website and Cahill says nearly 25 percent are African-American, 10 percent are Hispanic and 7 percent international students, representing more than 70 countries.Cahill says every year the school accepts 30 of 3,000 foreign students who compete for admission online. Students work 10 to 20 hours a week on the Berea campus, to pay for room and board and books.

Other four-year colleges where international students can be part of a work program to cover all or part of their tuition include:

· College of the Ozarks — also known as “Hard Work U.” This Christian school near Branson, Missouri, admits a small number of international students. Every student works 15 hours a week, and two 40-hour work weeks a year to cover the cost of tuition.

· Warren Wilson College is a small liberal arts college near Asheville, North Carolina, with just under 700 students. Students work on campus and earn over $2,000 toward tuition. Depending on financial needs, international students may get full-tuition paid by a program called Milepost One, or other scholarships. The campus includes a 300-acre farm where students work and grow food served on campus.

· Barclay College is a smaller school with a few foreign students in rural Haviland, Kansas, a Midwest state. It is a small Christian liberal arts school with only 170 students. Director of Admissions Justin Kendall told VOA they offer free tuition to boost enrollment, and students are responsible for about $16,000 a year for room and board. Donors help make up the difference at the school. Kendall said, “they love the college, and what we’re doing here.” He says foreign students do “really, really well” there because of the small size. “They get a lot of personal attention here.”

· Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia offers free tuition. The school “highly values a diverse international student body,” according to its website. Musicians from 20 countries make up nearly 40 percent of the students. The school requires an audition and admits very few students.

Service academies

U.S. military academies –- also called service academies because graduates must serve in the Navy or Marines after graduation -- are technically free and even offer a stipend to students that increases as they rise in grade. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is the oldest of the military colleges, dating back to 1802. The U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) was founded in 1845 and is known as Annapolis, in Maryland where it is located. The Coast Guard and Air Force academies are younger, established in 1930 in New London, Connecticut, and 1945 in Colorado, respectively.

But admission rates are extremely low, meaning these service academies are highly selective, requiring applicants to show not only excellent grades and test scores, but exemplary community service and recommendations from elected lawmakers.

The service academies offer slots to international students, but they are selected and sponsored by their home country governments, and be between the ages of 17 and 22 to be considered for admission. The countries are selected by the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense. West Point says American embassies ask each invited nation to nominate up to six candidates to compete for admission to the school.

West Point’s website says up to 60 international students may study at the academy at a time. The same is true for the U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Naval Academy. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy also admits international students.

West Point spokesman Frank DeMaro Jr. told VOA that the most recent class has students from 14 countries, including Colombia, the Gambia, Jordan, Rwanda and Thailand. After graduation, he says, they return to their countries and serve as officers in their armed forces. Graduates of U.S. service academies are expected to serve in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard on active duty after graduation.

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Students learn protests can affect job prospects

FILE - Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on April 25, 2024.
FILE - Students protesting against the war in Gaza, and passersby walking through Harvard Yard, are seen at an encampment at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on April 25, 2024.

Some students in the U.S. are learning their public stances on the Israel-Hamas war are having an impact on job prospects.

Financial Times reports that protest activities are turning up in background checks, and employers have revoked employment offers to students as a result. (June 2024)

UCLA names new chancellor as campus is still reeling from protests over Israel-Hamas war

Dr. Julio Frenk, the next chancellor of UCLA, listens to questions at a news conference, June 12, 2024, in Los Angeles.
Dr. Julio Frenk, the next chancellor of UCLA, listens to questions at a news conference, June 12, 2024, in Los Angeles.

The president of the University of Miami was chosen Wednesday to become the next chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, where the retiring incumbent leaves a campus roiled by protests over Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza.

Dr. Julio Frenk, a Mexico City-born global public health researcher, was selected by regents of the University of California system at a meeting on the UCLA campus, where there were a swarm of security officers.

Frenk will succeed Gene Block, who has been chancellor for 17 years and announced his planned retirement long before UCLA became a national flashpoint for U.S. campus protests. This spring, pro-Palestinian encampments were built and cleared by police with many arrests, and again this week, there were more arrests.

Frenk has led the 17,000-student University of Miami since 2015 and previously served as dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and as Mexico's national health secretary, among other positions.

In a brief press conference, Frenk said he was approaching the appointment with excitement and humility.

"The first thing I plan to do is listen very carefully," Frenk said. "This is a complex organization. It is, as I mentioned, a really consequential moment in the history of higher education."

Frenk did not comment on specific protests at UCLA this spring or the current administration's response, which initially tolerated an encampment but ultimately used police to clear it and keep new camps from forming.

During public comment in the regents meeting, speakers criticized UC administrators, alleged police brutality, complained of a lack of transparency in UC endowments and called for divestment from companies with ties to Israel or in weapons manufacturing.

Speakers also talked about experiencing antisemitism on campus and called for an increased law enforcement response to protesters.

Later, about 200 people rallied, including members of an academic student workers union and the Faculty for Justice for Palestine group as well as students from other UC campuses. Participants held signs calling for charges to be dropped against protesters who have been arrested.

Block departs UCLA on July 31. Darnell Hunt, executive vice president and provost, will serve as interim chancellor until Frenk becomes UCLA's seventh chancellor on January 1, 2025.

In previous roles, Frenk was founding director of Mexico's National Institute of Public Health, held positions at the World Health Organization and the nonprofit Mexican Health Foundation, and was a senior fellow with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's global health program.

Frenk received his medical degree from the National University of Mexico in 1979. He then attended the University of Michigan, where he earned master's degrees in public health and sociology, and a joint doctorate in medical care organization and sociology.

Experts: US will have nearly 2 million international students by 2034

FILE - People line up outside McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz.
FILE - People line up outside McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz.

Experts predict the U.S. will enroll nearly 1.8 million international students by 2034, ICEF Monitor reports.

Most of the students will hail from India, along with China, Vietnam, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Nepal, Brazil and Mexico, the analysis says.

Read the story here. (May 2024)

UCLA gets its first international student undergraduate council president

FILE - The UCLA campus on April 25, 2019.
FILE - The UCLA campus on April 25, 2019.

An international student will lead the Undergraduate Students Association Council at UCLA for the first time.

Adam Tfayli, who is from Lebanon, won the presidential race, beating out five other candidates.

Student newspaper the Daily Bruin has the story here. (May 2024)

Examining the facts behind US international student boom

FILE - Students listen during commencement in Harvard Yard, at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., May 23, 2024.
FILE - Students listen during commencement in Harvard Yard, at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., May 23, 2024.

The U.S. international student population is booming.

The Chicago Tribune takes a look at the trend and what it means for colleges. Read the story here. (May 2024)

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