What to do when an Au Pair doesn’t spend her whole *education* budget

by cv harquail on May 26, 2014

The cost of college credits is so high, it’s hard to imagine that some au pairs don’t spend their entire Education allowance ($500) on meeting their education requirement.

Sweet Surprise Book with MuffinBut, sometimes an au pair gets fees waived or they find a program with lower costs. Some au pairs take classes (like ESL) that get them credits and fulfill the requirements for free.

In these situations, what should happen to the unspent balance of the Education allowance?

To be sure– I’m not suggesting that an Au Pair is “owed” the balance, especially if the Au Pair has done nothing to try to fill the requirement anyway. But:

  • Should Host Parents give the balance in cash to the Au Pairs?
  • Should Host Parents agree with the Au Pair to spend it to subsidize some other kind of learning, such as a vacation trip or museum fees?
  • Should there be some other ‘good’ purpose on which the remaining balance is spent?

What do you think?


See also:

Options for Fulfilling the Au Pair Education Requirement: Online Classes?
Can’t seem to fill the Au Pair Educational Requirement. What to do?
Learning about the “Education Requirement”
US State Department Regulations for the Au Pair Program

Image: “Sweet surprise [Explored]” by carmen_d_cluj


Should be working May 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm

CV, those Memorial Day margaritas must be getting to you–I think you mean her whole EDUCATION allowance, not her vacation budget!

Our APs rarely use their education allowance because they end up auditing courses, which they prefer, at the higher education institution my DH teaches at. If an AP comes to us with some other thing she wants to do that fits education, like the last one wanted to study for and take the TOEFL test, we will apply the $500 to that. But we aren’t out there offering and suggesting. The AP is usually plenty grateful to get to choose among courses that interest her at a great university, instead of crappy community-college or adult-education courses in topics that don’t interest her but fit her schedule and the program parameters (and cost more than $500).

Taking a Computer Lunch May 26, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Wow, I’ve never had this come up in 13 years! My APs have always had to pay more, with the exception of the one who took the APIA online course. For the record, I had an AP who took language courses at an ESOL-only language school and thought the community college (for credit) ESOL classes were superior – they were meant to get students ready to take standard community college classes. Some of my APs have pursued dreams that they couldn’t in university in their home countries – like taking a singing class, while others have learned another foreign language as a non-credit class. Several thought they would stay and complete university here, but only one did.

Multitasking Host Mom May 26, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Our au pairs never have this problem. They either take two weekend classes for au pairs at a university in the nearby large city. It conveniently costs $500 for 6 credits. Or they go to the community college where one 3 credit class pretty much sucks up the education allowance and they have to pay for the other class/credits on their own. We actually have a good private college just a mile or so from our house, but they do not have any provisions for au pairs and one class was going to cost over $1000…at least that was what the admissions office told me when I asked. I would love it if I knew a college professor there, but I don’t, and I don’t know any other way to get lower cost/audited for free classes for the au pairs. (Would love it if anyone has any tips on how to find those!) I actually tell them all this in our initial interview, because our first au pair came here expecting to pretty much get an ivy league education on the $500 education credit. In my area, that is not going to happen.
We did just have our wonderful au pair leave us early due to personal reasons. She had not yet used all of her education allowance. Honestly, it never occurred to me to offer her the rest when she left, about $100. And she never mentioned it.

NoVA Twin Mom May 27, 2014 at 2:54 pm

A stray thought – does the good private college teach the language your au pairs speak? If so, you might be able to develop an “in” through that language department. Call them up (start with the chair of that language department), ask if you can put your au pair in contact with them, as they’re often looking for native speakers to practice with their language students. This works particularly well if you’re in a small town where there wouldn’t be too many native speakers of that language, but could also work in larger cities. Then, once you’ve made friends, ask THEM about the possibility of auditing/sitting in/etc. I was a language major in college (private, liberal arts, small town) and we occasionally had local native speakers of college-ish age coming to our events, even if they weren’t taking classes. I’m not sure what the reaction would have been if anyone had asked to audit/sit in on a course.

PA AP Mom May 26, 2014 at 5:49 pm

I never had this happen but I guess I think of it as “use it or lose it”, similar to a Healthcare savings account where you deposit a certain amount for the year and if you don’t use it, you lose it.

Old China Hand May 26, 2014 at 7:14 pm

Our AP hasn’t used her whole budget because she audits classes for free at the school I teach at. We pay for all her books and she always tells us not to, but we do it. I don’t know how much we spent on books, but certainly under $500. I’m not sure it made sense to get her so darn many books since it isn’t clear she read them, but it seemed like the right thing to do. We certainly aren’t giving her any money we have left, because she has gotten the education requirement fulfilled, it just didn’t cost either of us money.

Skny May 26, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Never happened to my au pairs, but both my famílies (the second one of first year, and the second year family) placed money towards my physical therapy licensing process. at the time (10+ years ago) Apia did not keep track of it as they seem to do now….

Anna May 26, 2014 at 8:22 pm

The rule is that the family pays “up to” $500 educational allowance. So if it is less, au pair is not “owed” anything IMHO

TexasHM May 26, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Even though we have inexpensive community college classes we haven’t had this issue. First AP took 2 ESL classes about $150 ea plus books and registration etc made $450ish and she didn’t ask and we didn’t offer difference. The program rules state the HF will contribute UP TO $500. It doesn’t say HF will contribute $500 so it never even occurred to me. First AP second year APIA online course $500, second AP did same, third AP did weekend travel course so she will be paying for her second class.

Angie host mom May 26, 2014 at 8:35 pm

When it has happened with us we used the balance to subsidize other learning – driving classes, toefl test, etc.

Anna May 26, 2014 at 8:50 pm

When my friend was a first time host mom she gave her au pair $500 in cash, in the beginning of the year, for the classes…. She rematched with that au pair pretty fast, and realized it was a mistake.

AussiePair May 26, 2014 at 10:15 pm

It’s funny that you’ve posted this as I asked my LCC a question along these lines just last week.

I’m going to have left over money after meeting my educational requirement, however I have to fly to a different state for one of the classes so I was wondering if my host family would then be required to pay the full $500 to cover some of the flight cost. Basically what I’ve been told is that host families only pay up to $500 for the class, if the wish to give me the full $500 that’s up to them, however they’re certainly not required to. I’m jealous of any au pair that can manage to do 6 credits for such little cost, the only reason I’ll be under this year is because I have a credit carrying over from last year (and even then it’s only going to be about $20 or so).

In my opinion I think it’s fine for a host family to keep anything extra for themselves, if your au pair extends you can always offer to give her the extra from the first year to go towards education in the second (although I would only offer it to be used for the education requirement and nothing else)

TexasHM May 27, 2014 at 8:10 am

We just had this happen because our AP flew to take a weekend course in San Francisco and yes, we used the $75ish difference leftover toward her plane ticket. I’m not sure if that’s required but we felt it was in the spirit of the program.

HRHM May 27, 2014 at 10:53 am

For a good AP, I would do this in a heartbeat. For a “meh” AP, not so much…

Something for APs to consider when they are doing the bare minimum to scrape by with their HF. It goes both ways.

Emerald City HM May 26, 2014 at 11:37 pm

We also consider this a use it or lose it type of thing.

SwissAuPair May 27, 2014 at 2:09 am

Maybe I’m the only Aupair that can not imagine to go to a different country without any savings. Before every Aupair Experience, I saved at least 5000$ to spend while beeing Aupair. It would have been very frustrating to me, that I would not be able to go to a class that I really wantet to. One of my language courses was about 900$, and I took 4 of them! That was in Norway, and the family paid me about 1200$ (it’s the law there, to pay that much for an Aupairs language course).
And later in the US, I took a lot of classes (10+). I liked the cooking and baking courses. It was so much fun! (I could also “sit in” at the local university, because my HD is a professor there.) I had a lot of time off (I worked only 20 to 30 hours per week) and I loved to be on the campus. I met a lot of students and some became close friends. To me this classes were the part, when I felt “american”.

To answer the questions:
If the Aupairs schedule does not allow her to use up all the money, you should give it to her.
If the Aupair has no intrest in going to college, you should keep it.
You can also remind the Aupair: “The year is over soon and I just wanted you to remember that you have XY$ left for classes.”

Taking a Computer Lunch May 27, 2014 at 6:56 am

SwissAuPair, attending a State Dept. approved class is a U.S. requirement. While the agencies can’t force an AP to attend the class(es), an AP cannot extend without having fulfilled them. As a HM, it is my obligation to budget up to $500, but it’s the AP’s obligation to enroll in classes and fulfill the State Dept. requirement.

I am fortunate to have a pro-active LCC. She really encourages the APs to save money each week to pay for classes, taxes, travel, and to have a cushion in the event of a car accident. Some APs do it, others don’t. I can always tell which ones don’t, because they go on austerity to pay for things they want to do – like travel.

SwissAuPair May 27, 2014 at 7:50 am

I know about the requirement, and I fulfilled it without any problems, since I was in classes half of the week. It is just strange to me, that a lot of aupairs have no savings at all (not only for classes). When I go to a big trip, I start to save at least 6 months in advance. I would never ever travel without financial security (at least as much to be able to book a flight home, no matter where you are). I never thought about saving my stipend, because I always have enough savings (from my fulltime-job back home) before I start my aupair-year.
And I know that not everyone in the world has the opportunity to save money all the time, even when they are working full-time. But for myself, I could not travel without having financial security.

The US was the only country where I really had to go to classes. In a lot of other countries aupairs are “normal”-employees. But the year in the US was the best of all those years as an aupair. I LOVED classes and I wish I could go back to the US as an aupair (I can’t because I’m too old now).

AussiePair May 27, 2014 at 8:14 am

I saved for 2 years before being an au pair, after all the costs I had only about $500 extra, it’s really not that easy to save up large sums of money. The other money that I have saved is to go towards things like car loans etc. however if I can’t find a job when I get home I will have to live on this while searching. So I find your statement just a little bit judgmental.. Even for an au pair who does save before they come it’s not just that easy to not worry about saving while here.

NoVA Twin Mom May 27, 2014 at 8:28 am

Something those of us in countries with strong currencies (like the Dollar, the Pound, the Euro, or the Swiss Franc) need to remember is that for us, saving is relatively easy. Our money holds its value, even when converted into other currency. For au pairs from the former Soviet bloc or South America or Asia, even if they have saved for as long as you did, the money just doesn’t go as far once converted into dollars. So they don’t have the cushion of savings you were able to create.

Plus, many of those au pairs needed to save as long as you did to pay fees/bonds to even be able to become an au pair in the first place, and/or have to send a percentage of their weekly stipend home periodically to support their family at home (or paying back loans taken to afford to be an au pair in the first place).

While I admire your ability to save and budget that much money in advance of your au pairing adventures, just because an au pair wasn’t able to save the way you were doesn’t mean they aren’t good planners.

exaupair May 27, 2014 at 11:01 am

People saving up for two years (!!!) to even apply for the program are way beyond my comprehension.
Unless au-pairing itself was my biggest dream, or a step that would significantly boost my career in the future, I would not pay however many thousands $ it takes for the AP to join the agency.

All due respect, but let’s face it, AP is not the most lucrative and certainly not the easiest” job” you could get (not many positions require you to live where you work and abide by your bosses household rules), and I honestly don’t believe the annual stipend would even allow those girls to break even, given they had to borrow money from friends/relatives etc.

Tristatemom May 27, 2014 at 11:21 am

WOW, exaupair. I always thought that being an AP broadens a person’s horizon and creates an awareness that live/people are very varied. You (and SwissAP upthread) seem to have missed that lesson. Too bad!

Amelie May 27, 2014 at 12:00 pm

The whole idea of the au pair program is not to make profit or break even.

Some girls do save for a long time to be able to participate, and see the au pair program as a unique opportunity to travel to the US. Some borrow money from family or even from the bank. Some send money home to pay for this debt (and some send money home just because they need to help their families).

It’s not about the money.

exaupair May 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Yes, it is but it’s also a job one is being paid for, and should also be treated as such. It’s not black versus white and you need to find a balance between being a family member and house staff, but it’s obvious that the AP is not on a year long vacation in the US on the HPs expense, she has some tasks assigned and is expected to deliver, otherwise she will be send to rematch, or if you wish, sacked.

whenever I put my money into something I expect to make a profit. In terms of monetary profit I will stand by what I’ve said, there are better paid jobs that require 45hrs of your time each week. And as much as I would be willing to get a loan or borrow from my family to for example do go abroad to do a job with an actual salary (which I know will allow me to break even within say first two months), I would not do it for the sake of signing up for a cultural exchange.
US is an expensive country to travel to and live, and then if I really had to break the bank in order to live there for a year, I’d much rather choose to be an AP somewhere, where I could spend less at the very beginning.

Amelie@my attitude may seem harsh but I’ve always been told that money has to make more money, and every amount invested should bring you profit, if you know from the very beginning that this won’t happen then how are you going to survive in the real world.

And no, I did not become an AP for the pocket money only especially when I’m not the kind of person who will get ecstatic being paid 90£ a week, what I wanted was to look after children for some time.
But yes, I can proudly say that I with minimal initial expenses(plane ticket) I not only broke it even but finished my time as an AP with plenty of cash left (not counting the money I took with me). I would not sign up for that if the flight plus my everyday expenses like eating out, cinema etc. would have costed more that the overall amount of money I could have earned.

Amelie May 27, 2014 at 1:04 pm

I was an au pair for one year in 2009.

I agree that we must profit from everything we invest in. But many times, It is not money.

I did it for the only purpose of living in the US for a while. I wanted to have this experience. Not even to get better jobs after, or anything like that. Just for the personal experience. Some people do it for the English, or for the experience in childcare, or whatever. And also… being an au pair is in most cases the only option. At least from where I come from, it is almost impossible to just find a job with an *actual salary*, as you put it, in the US. I didn’t go into debt or had to borrow money from anyone, but I know a lot of people who do and don’t regret it.

And, although there are many fees and all, the US is still the easiest, cheapest place to be an au pair (if you are in Europe, it might not be true, but it is for us in South America)

Plus, it is perfectly possible to live, eat, travel, study, and even save some money in the end with $200 a week. I did it (traveled to Europe and many places in the US, bought lots of things, went out every weekend, and even put some money toward a trip I too after my ap year), and many people do.

No problem with your attitude, it’s just that there are other perspectives, and I offering mine.

BTW, I’m 30, living in the real world for quite a while now, and doing really well, thank you.

Seattle Mom May 27, 2014 at 5:16 pm

I have friends who saved up for two years to travel around the world and work while on the trip (either as a volunteer, in exchange for room & board, or for pay). Granted, being an au pair is an actual job with actual responsibilities and you should expect to be paid in exchange. But you get more out of it than monetary gain.. for some people it is equivalent to an education in English language and US culture. That may or may not pay off in any currency but there is a value in broadening your horizons and having a different sort of experience than you would in your home country.

Also, my understanding is that there are a lot of people who do the program even though they could easily make more money staying at home.

My last AP was from Thailand and I know she spent 2 years paying back people who lent her the money to pay her agency program fees. I wish the agencies didn’t charge those fees, especially to APs from poorer countries, but I think that she felt that it was worth the money, even if she couldn’t come out ahead. Not everyone would feel that way, but everyone values higher education differently too.

Angie host mom May 27, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Obviously, exaupair, you never go to the cinema unless you are snuck in through the back door. The money you spend at the theater is not going to pay you back!

There is more to money than money. It’s about how you earn it and how you spend it and how you save it. It’s about priorities.

If an au pair wants to use her $500 stipend to pay for things that are education related but not directly tied to the 6 credits – fine. If she wants to spend the money on a stupid class because she feels she “deserves” the money and I should have to pay it because I “owe” it to her, even though it isn’t needed for credit and doesn’t fit with her own goals – I wouldn’t pay it.

exaupair May 27, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Money is meant to be spent, that’s the sole purpose of it. I understand that some people want to do this program so much that they would save up and borrow as much as they can. All I’m saying is that I wouldn’t do it if the initial cost was higher than the final amount I could possibly earn. Before I invest my time and energy in something I always do my maths, I’ve been brought up this way.

That said, I did benefit from being an AP in different ways too, I got to do what I wanted to do, i.e. looking after kids without any solid experience in childcare, which without the program wouldn’t be possible. But if i didn’t bother my head with adding up few numbers I would probably end up in a really destructive environment with people who would require X but are willing to only pay half of my jobs worth, thinking it’s perfectly fine because the cultural exchange has a substantial value. Unfortunately where I live the common currency is GBP, not life time memories.

Although, sometimes I do think I’m so painfully pragmatic that my attitude will take at least 20 yrs off my life :-)

BackHome May 28, 2014 at 6:29 am

When I was in High School I did save some money for University, my driver’s licence,.. and when I came to the US I was glad to have this “emergency money” just in case I had to book a flight home or for medical expenses – luckily I didn’t need to touch it.
But to me the whole Au Pair experience wasn’t about money at all. It was much more about exploring a different culture in a way vacations and jobs won’t let you, learning to be more flexible, responsible and open-minded, detaching from home, growing up,… And I got rewarded with a “second” family and a place where I’m always welcome – and to me that’s worth so much more than the money I could have made with a different job…
Anyway as it was said in most of the comments above HP are required to spend UP TO $500 – if the Au Pair decides to take free / cheaper classes then she has no right to claim the rest. If a good AP didn’t use up the $500 and has travel costs to get to her classes or needs to buy books, etc, I think it would be a nice gesture to offer the rest of the $500 to pay for it.

exaupair May 27, 2014 at 5:56 am

“If the Aupairs schedule does not allow her to use up all the money, you should give it to her.
If the Aupair has no intrest in going to college, you should keep it.”
I totally agree, sometimes the schedule will not allow the AP to do all the classes she wants to, she would do some other classes (possibly free of charge), so it’s not her fault not to have spent her education allowance. Although if she deliberately won’t use the whole amount she should loose the remaining money. I think whenever you have a budget of $500 and someone is “giving” the money to you, you should spend it to the last penny (within the variety of goods the money was to spend for) and benefit from it.

I find the idea of giving your AP the cash she didn’t manage to use because of the decisions SHE made on her choice of courses is ridiculous. Giving her the whole amount on the start of her year is even more bizarre, and if HPs started doing that, it would eventually result in outrageous situations where APs (especially the younger ones, who don’t know how to manage their budget) spend it all within first few weeks and are forced either to take some free, not necessarily interesting classes, or not to meet their credit requirements at all.

Nova HM May 27, 2014 at 5:58 am

Just like the 45hrs per week. As host parents it is use or lose, cannot carry over and the AP has no obligation to make it up.

exaupair May 27, 2014 at 7:44 am

No, but then she’ll miss out. The money is not “hers” but it’s for her to spend and her responsibility to spend it wisely.

Emerald City HM May 27, 2014 at 11:53 am

My employer pays for college classes up to X amount of dollars per year. If the only classes I can take outside my work schedule are at a less expensive community college instead of being able to take courses at the state university because they take place when I work, I don’t get to keep the difference.

I also have to pay my employer back the money if I don’t get a C or better, don’t complete the course, or leave the company within 2 years of taking the class.

It’s most definitely not my money to spend.

HRHM May 27, 2014 at 9:47 pm

I have acutally started paying for the courses AFTER they are completed and passed. My LCC thinks I’m nuts, but I had two APs who registered for classes that I paid for and then they either decided they didn’t want to take them after all (bad time for her social life) or dropped out after a few weeks. So, now my AP registers and pays for the course herself and when she is done, I reimburse her for it.

It’s how every employer I’ve ever encountered handles it and as I quickly discovered, there is no way to get the money back from an AP if she fails to follow through (or just fails period.)

AussiePair May 27, 2014 at 10:21 pm

I don’t even show my host family the receipt for my classes until I’ve either completed the class, or my host family asks to see it. Although I certainly have no intention of ever not going through with the classes I enroll for.

Your LCC may think you’re nuts, I think you’re smart!

HRHM May 27, 2014 at 11:14 am

I also want to state up front, there is no legitimate “her schedule won’t allow her to use it”. It’s a REQUIREMENT that the AP take 6 credit hours and the HF is REQUIRED to make sure she is able to do so. Having said that, she may not be able to take the M-F 3pm class she wants and may have to settle for a couple weekend courses instead. But no AP who has a family who follows the rule (or an LCC who wants to keep her job) should ever be in the position where she can’t get her 6 credit hours in the year. And there is no need to “use up” the allowance, as it is a maximum, not a minimum.

Peachtree Mom May 27, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Our au pair took ESL at a technical college free of charge and received her credits. I gave her gas money to get there and paid for the $20 book. She did not ask for the remainder of the money and I did not offer it. The class was free and she received the needed credits. Everyone is happy. To me it could have gotten tricky if after she received the needed credits that she wanted to go on and take something else that cost money and wanted reimbursement.

Should be working May 27, 2014 at 1:10 pm

We had an AP beg to take a “speech class” at comm. college. It cost $750, we paid the extra, we are fans of higher ed and wanted to support the AP in her ambition.

She came home after the first day upset, saying she had to give a 1-minute speech the next week, and didn’t want to. And then a few weeks later a 3-minute speech, and her final exam was a 5-minute speech. She was miserable each time, we tried to help her, she hated it and tried to skip out on her speech-giving days in class but I insisted she go. I asked her, “Well what did you THINK you were signing up for–it’s a SPEECH CLASS!” She thought they would be reading speeches, as it turns out.

Seattle Mom May 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm

I have to admit that I haven’t been keeping very good track of how much we spend on the AP’s classes. So far we have honored every request to fund a class, and it seems like we are somewhere in the $500 range for each AP (based on the amount per class and how many classes we are paying for), but this is all information I keep in my head. I figure if I get the feeling that I’m over the $500 I’ll have to look back at my credit card bills and so a little math.. we’ve paid for almost all of these courses directly with a credit card- either the pre-paid one I give to APs or my own credit card.

For me I’d rather accidentally overpay by $50 and not worry about it over the course of a year than have to fret about it and make sure not to spend a dime over $500. The flip side is that we may very well be spending less than $500 (but I don’t think so)- I don’t have any intention of giving the au pair the difference.

So far our APs have all taken continuing ed classes at the community college, for about $75-150 per course, and they take 3-5 courses… so we’re in the right ballpark. My husband actually teaches at the community college and the local (high caliber research institution) university, so he might be able to arrange an audit with a colleague, we never considered it. He teaches math & physics though and only knows people in the math & science department- we have yet to have an AP interested in taking math or physics :).

Returning HM May 27, 2014 at 2:54 pm

In general we have paid well over the $500 (or $1,000 when we hosted an Educate) allowance, because we fully support an AP who wants to study while s/he is here. Most of our APs have taken well more than the required number of credits, and all except our current have taken the educational component very seriously and used the courses either as a way to figure out what they want to study in university once home (our gap-year APs) or to work towards a Master’s degree either here or once back home (3 of our older APs). Our current AP, who came to us through rematch, had no interest in taking any classes until he decided to extend (not with us). Suddenly, he needed two weekend classes and quick. In this case, I was happy to pay the $500 even though we had paid $500 for our last AP, who had to go home early, but I wasn’t interested in paying his travel to and from the weekend classes.

In no case, in our eight years in the program, have we had the situation of there being any money leftover from the $500….on the contrary, the continuing ed classes at the Ivy League univ or at the community college where the APs have mostly taken their classes run about $375-$425 each, so we definitely pay more than the $500 each year (not that I am counting, though).

Host Mom in the City May 27, 2014 at 7:42 pm

I can’t imagine having this problem, but I do think it’s clearly a requirement that host families pay “up to $500” toward fulfilling the education requirement. I wouldn’t have even considered paying any extra on cash if it wasn’t used. I’m very disappointed in the educational component of the program incidentally. These 6-credit, exactly $500 au pair only weekend travel courses are a complete and total waste of time and really make a mockery of the program. Despite my explanations, none of my au pairs have understood that they wouldn’t be able to take college courses for $500 and my current au pair in particular was really disappointed that it would cost her about $1,500 over our $500 to take the credits she really wanted to take. She ended up in the lame weekend course just to meet the requirement and was really bummed out by it. Yet another area of the program that really needs to be revamped.

WarmStateMomma May 28, 2014 at 9:51 am


My AP just spent 5 hours at the community college yesterday to do placement testing so she can see which courses are available – and she has to return another day to complete more testing. The college does not have an online PDF schedule or courses or a searchable course listing. The office has no hard copies available. Best I can tell, a 3-credit course will cost her $450 plus books. Naturally, it’s not clear from the website or the counselors which tuition rate will apply to her.

The local university charges $2,500 for a 3-credit course and they won’t admit her without a college transcript – which is a document her college in China does not provide.

She really wants to take meaningful courses, but I just don’t think it’s going to be feasible. I never realized the educational choices would be so limited in one of the largest cities in the country.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 28, 2014 at 11:15 am

Realistically, most APs won’t meet the English-level requirements to do anything but take ESOL at a community college (only 1 in 9 so far has scored out of ESOL classes out of the gate, 4 more only had to take the highest level writing class to move forward). They were all European. I think the APs, too, find it disappointing, since the literature promised them the world when it came to study.

That being said, there are ways to pursue non-academic interests – one AP took a voice class for credit and had a great time – it really helped with her English pronunciation. However, there are a wealth of topics covered by non-credit classes in most major cities – study photography, master software, play tennis, learn dance moves, watch movies!

For APs who want to pursue academic goals with an eye toward completing a degree in the U.S. or earning credentials to take home, then from what I’ve learned over the years, the path is more constrained. One has to meet the college’s requirements for mastery of English before moving forward.

WarmStateMamma – I’m surprised your local community college doesn’t have a pdf file at the very least. While printed booklets of course listings are much rarer these days, most have a search engine or a pdf file of available courses.

While my LCC doesn’t know the ins and outs of all the local community colleges (her area covers 3-4 counties), she does have great knowledge of how to apply and listings of free classes that offer 1 CEU. She also is aware of the State Dept. regulation and can break it down between hours, CEUs and credits.

WarmStateMomma May 28, 2014 at 11:43 am

Don’t even get me started on the state of things run by the local governments here…. :) The online system requires you to search by calendar session (there are 7 for the fall semester), then by region of the metro area (our house is near 3), then by specific campus location, then by the general topic, then by actual course. Then you find out that the course is at 4pm in the afternoon or taught online. Then you have to enter all the info again to try a different course. I spent 2 hours on this one day and just gave up looking. If the course has pre-requisites, that information is hidden elsewhere. Only current students can log into a portal with searchable course info, so we don’t know how useful that is.

AP#1 passed the English part of the placement exam and I expect AP#2 to do the same. Math is iffy because they don’t study math in college and high school math was a long time ago….

AP#1 took a weekend course (New Orleans, mixed reviews) and took a couple of leisure courses (drawing and cooking, good experience and value) at a very prestigious university downtown. AP#2 is looking for business courses – which will be a lot harder to find for her schedule and her budget, especially if she can’t get a college transcript from home. I hate that it’s so difficult for her to take meaningful courses here when I know that’s something she really wants to do.

If anyone knows of any schools offering intensive business courses that could be completed in a few weeks, I’d love to hear about them. Perhaps there’s something we could arrange during my maternity leave or her travel month.

NoVA Twin Mom May 28, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Does the school have an international students office? They may be more geared toward students enrolling full time, but may at least be a little more invested in the idea of an international student wanting to take a class or two than the admissions office would be, and maybe willing to use their own contacts to do some research for you. Also, could you call the office of the Business/Economics department (not the actual business office, but the office of the department that teaches business courses) and ask them about classes that meet at X time, which may at least cut down on your searching?

I have a number of friends/relatives that are college professors (unfortunately in the wrong region of the country to help you) and I can’t help but think that if someone got their attention with these kinds of questions they’d be willing to help. Which makes me think if only you could get the attention of the *right* people at these colleges, they’d also be willing to help. They’re just not the people that immediately come to mind when calling a college, and not the people the switchboard is going to automatically put you in touch with. I’d really try either the office of the department of the class they want to take, the international student office, or, if the language your au pair speaks is taught at that college, try that the department office of that language, and see if you can “make a friend.” Then pick that friend’s brain.

WarmStateMomma May 28, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Good ideas! The international students office actually adds another layer of red tape, but the department that offers business courses may be more helpful. It seems like they must have this information readily available.

The counselors don’t even know the information available on the web page marketing different programs, so they are just another hurdle to jump.

HRHM May 28, 2014 at 10:43 am

In my experience, the best ability to take courses were in small towns. In the DC metro area, Virginia Beach area, Denver area, the offerings are pitiful and pretty much inaccessible. Cost prohibitive, millions of hoops to jump through, and no flexibility at all. In central PA, we had the choice of a good sized state University or a medium sized liberal arts private University (one of the best and most expensive in the country) that both made it easy and within our budget to send our AP for real classes. I wish more institutions would be like them…

Returning HM May 28, 2014 at 11:50 am

In the DC area, our APs had great luck at Georgetown (as of two years ago offered a 30% discount to APIA – may still) and Montgomery College (again as of two years ago, allowed APs to be in-county for tuition). In central NJ, Princeton Univ has great continuing ed and Mercer County Comm College (in-county tuition for APs) was wonderful too for our APs. Outside Boston, our APs have had great luck at Harvard Extension School (our APs have taken classes in psychology, marketing, and sociology) and Bay State Comm College. It does take a lot of digging to find the extension offerings, particularly those with late starts since our APs come the last week of Aug and aren’t usually able to start the day after Labor Day, but we have managed to help them find worthwhile classes for the most part.

Sadly, I have yet to find an LCC who is helpful about this, other than our former LCC in NJ, but she isn’t an LCC anymore.

Skny May 28, 2014 at 11:54 am

Did colleges change the way they operate? When I was an Au pair (10+ years ago) as long as we passed minimum English requirements we were allowed to take classes as residents (just had to show we were Au pairs). None of my Au pairs had enough English to even try community college classes (as one of my recruitment tools is bad to non-existent English)., but I remember They were quite inexpensive

WarmStateMomma May 28, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Every college is different, so their courses, requirements, prices, and schedules vary wildly.

Mommydiva May 30, 2014 at 3:52 am

Here is how we do it. We have paid up front in the past for aupairs and have been burned. We rematched with an aupair after stupidly sending her to school and paying a little over $500 in the first 2 months, so she could take her English class at a local college. We thought that if she got the education classes out of the way earlier she would have more time for herself after work (not heading to classes) or for us to schedule her hours if we wanted a date night.

Anyway we were burned after having to rematch because guess what she goes to her new family with her education already taken of. So that new family doesn’t pay. Sort of like vacation they get 2 weeks and if they use one week with you and the rematch, they only get one week with the new family.
New rule going forward is aupair pays for her own education whatever amount up to $500 and at the end of her successful year with us, she gets reimbursed fully. If she leaves before the year in rematch then she doesn’t get reimbursed.

Also re vacation no vacation until 6 months have been completed.

We got burned on that too by giving the aupair her vacay and we rematched with another aupair (not within country) so she came with her own terms of contract and vacation and education. Hope this makes sense and sorry if this sounds hard ass!

MommyMia June 14, 2014 at 10:17 am

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the HF is supposed to pay the school for the class, not the AP. This way the whole problem is avoided. We’ve had new APs start at the beginning of a semester and when they found a class they wanted to enroll in, we encourage them to complete the education requirement and get it out of the way. They’re not going to have enough money saved when they first arrive to pay for the (in our state ridiculously high) tuition fees.

Brady May 31, 2014 at 1:54 pm

We were the initial reason for posting this topic. We are in Seattle and our Au Pair took ESL classes at the community college that were very cheap ($25/class +/-). She fulfilled her requirement and we are far below the money limit. She asked us about the difference so we decided to look into it and after talking with the community coordinator we mentioned to her that we wouldn’t pay the difference to her, which she is fine with, but I think we will give her a departing bonus of sorts after 2 years are up. I am glad the consensus on this thread agrees.

Gretchen June 1, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Our agency explained that we reimbursed up to $250 for education per semester. If s/he doesn’t spend, we don’t reimburse it. No extra money required. Thus far it has not been an issue because they have never spent less than that on their classes.

Abba June 14, 2014 at 9:24 am

Our wonderful AP, who just extended with us and completes her first year at the end of the month, asked me yesterday if she had used up her whole education allowance (she hadn’t, having spent only $200 on ESL classes that fulfilled her credits). She was hinting that she wanted us to pay for her to take the TOEFL in September. She is a great AP with serious academic goals, and I see this as an education-related expense and am happy to apply her education budget to it even though it’s considered an extra in the eyes of the program. But she seemed perturbed when I told her it would come out of her second year education allowance instead of from the “extra” from her first. This seemed fair to me–but am I off base here?

Taking a Computer Lunch June 14, 2014 at 11:21 am

Why not be generous? You obviously like her – or you wouldn’t have extended with her. She has $300 left in her education allowance and has serious academic goals. By passing the TOEFL exam she increases the opportunities to take meaningful classes in the U.S.

HRHM June 14, 2014 at 11:45 am

I agree with TaCL – if you like her enough to want to extend (I’d REALLY have to adore an AP and think she was a rock-star level worker to extend) then you should be happy to “roll over” the 300 bucks into next year’s education allowance. It’s not like she’s asking for extra money for something frivolous…

I actually offer to each of our APs, outside of the education budget, that if they’d like to take the TOEFL, we’ll pay for – if they pass. I want them to take it seriously and study for it – not just take it on a lark because its “free”. None have taken me up on this offer yet.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm

I had one AP who later told me that she wished she had taken it, so I encouraged another fluent AP to take it. She passed easily but ended up not needing it when she worked on her BA in Europe. The AP who wished she had ended up writing her BA paper in English, because all of her research sources were in English. She is now in the process of writing her MA paper in English for the same reason. She was the AP who left saying she would never go to university.

Bottom line, APs, there is nothing like a pass in the TOEFL to “prove” you have mastered English. Take it while it’s fresh. It’s only good for 2 years if you want to study in the U.S. (I don’t know about abroad), but it can be a useful tool for academically serious APs.

Angie host mom June 14, 2014 at 11:24 am

I would let her use her “extra” for this – she’s telling you before the end of the first year, if she could take the toefl tomorrow she would.

Abba June 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm

You all are right–paying for it from her first year’s allowance is the right thing to do (plus a good relationship investment). Thanks for weighing in!

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