American public education is operated by state and local governments, regulated by the United States Department of Education through restrictions on federal grants. Children are required in most states to attend school from the age of six or seven until they turn eighteen. some states allow students to leave school at sixteen or seventeen.
The United States has many competitive private and public institutions of higher education. According to prominent international rankings, 13 or 15 American colleges and universities are ranked among the top 20 in the world. There are also local community colleges with generally more open admission policies, shorter academic programs, and lower tuition.
Unlike the systems of most other countries, education in the United States is highly decentralized, and the federal government and Department of Education are not heavily involved in determining curricula or educational standards. This has been left to state and local school districts. The quality of educational institutions and their degrees is maintained through an informal private process known as accreditation, over which the Department of Education has no direct public jurisdictional control.
There are many types of colleges and universities in the U.S. Classification can be based on whether a school is financially supported by a state or not, the history of a school, how and when it was first established, or how the school primarily functions now.
Public institutions : These are state-affiliated institutions that are financed by state and they're usually large in size.
Small Liberal Arts Colleges : There are hundreds of small liberal arts colleges throughout the United States enrolling anywhere from fewer than 1,000 students to several thousand.
The Ivy League : Although these schools are among the oldest and most famous in the country. All these schools are in the Northeastern U.S.
Religiously-Affiliated Schools : There are a large number of colleges and universities in the United States that were formed by religious groups and organizations.
Technical Institutes : These are schools specializing primarily in engineering and science and particularly noted for their research and graduate programs.
University : The broadest type of educational institution, comprising both undergraduate and graduate schools. Universities often have several colleges, schools, or faculties and offer several levels of academic degrees (B.A./B.S., M.A./M.S., M.B.A., M.D., Ph.D.)
College : Generally a four-year undergraduate academic institution. Colleges primarily offer Bachelor's degree programs and sometimes a limited number of Master's-level programs.
Professional school : is a graduate program where people study for specific professions, such as: lawyer, (law school), doctor (medical school), veterinarian (veterinary school), dentist (dental school) or business person (business school). Usually professional schools function as part of a larger university, but some are "free-standing" and function on their own.
Accreditation : The U.S. uses a rigorous and complex system of monitored self-study by six regional accrediting bodies to determine whether or not an institution is "accredited.”
College and University : In the United States, colleges and universities are ALWAYS postsecondary (past high school) institutions. The terms "college" and "university" interchangeably, and a degree from a college is equivalent to a degree from a university.
The major differences are that colleges tend to have smaller student bodies, focus on undergraduate education and hire professors for their teaching abilities. Universities tend to be larger, offer undergraduate and graduate programs and hire faculty to teach and conduct research.
Public and Private Universities : The U.S. has a great variety of strong public and private universities. Funding comes from tuition, grants for research, and voluntary contributions. Public institutions are state-controlled and give preference to in-state students. They tend to be less expensive, but usually assess added out-of-state fees to students from other states and countries.
Credit System : Progress toward graduation in the U.S. is measured through the accumulation of credits, rather than in years as in many other countries. Each course/class you successfully complete is worth a certain number of credits and a determined number of credits is required for graduation.
Ability to transfer from one university to another : The credit system allows students to "take their credits" from one undergraduate program to another, or from a two-year college to a four-year college, and not have to begin over again at the beginning. However, each university determines how much credit they will grant for previous work and how much of that credit will fulfill their requirements.
Ability to change major fields of study : "Changing majors" after enrollment is a common practice among undergraduate students. Changing a major may mean more time is needed to complete the requirements of the new field before being eligible to graduate, but it does give students the opportunity to move into the program best suited to their needs and abilities.
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