Education in the United States is mainly provided by the public sector, with control and funding coming from three levels: federal, state, and local. Child education is compulsory.
The American educational system comprises 12 grades of study over 12 calendar years of primary and secondary education before graduating and becoming eligible for college admission. After pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, there are five years in primary school (normally known as elementary school). After completing five grades, the student will enter junior high or middle school and then high school to get the high school diploma.
Students completing high school may apply to attend an undergraduate school. This may be a community college (one that offers two-year degrees, usually to prepare students to transfer to state universities), liberal arts college (one that concentrates on undergraduate education), or part of a larger research university.
Bachelor’s level education in USA normally starts after the completion of 12 years of primary and secondary education. Hence, education beyond class XII is also known as ‘post-secondary’ education, in USA.
Bachelor’s programs are of four years duration, and are offered by different types of colleges.
Liberal Arts colleges offer a general education in Arts and Sciences that develop general knowledge and reasoning ability. Most of these types of colleges are privately owned and have limited number of programs.
Upper-Division colleges are those that offer the last two years of undergraduate programs, which are specialized.
Community colleges are those that offer Associate Degrees of two years duration. On completion of such two-year Associate degrees, students join either upper-division colleges or universities to complete the balance two years for obtaining the Bachelors degree. Most community colleges are publicly owned ones and offer technical programs that prepare students for entry into job market, with Certificate and Diploma programs of six months to one year. Specialized programs like Engineering are also offered, that are equivalent to the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. These are known as ‘transfer’ programs.
Universities offer a broad range of both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The size of universities varies greatly – right from a two-bedroom apartment to campuses in thousands of acres! The range and diversity of programs offered are quite large. It is only possible to take up research work in universities and not in any other types of colleges.
While the universities/institutes in the US offer both, scholarships and study loans to International students, and students are allowed to work on part time basis to meet the study and stay cost, it is still important for students to evaluate their funds and come to a conclusion only after that. According to the Web site for NAFSA: Association of International Educators- ‘81 percent of international students studying at the undergraduate level in the United States receive no assistance to pay for their education. At the graduate level 47 percent must fund their own education’.