Can’t seem to fill the Au Pair Educational Requirement. What to do?

by cv harquail on October 10, 2013

Help! We are having a serious issue with the educational component for our au pair.

hit the booksDear AuPairMom–

Our au pair came to us in early January of last year, too late to start classes for the semester. We had planned to get her registered in the summer, but my military duty unexpectedly took me away from home the entire summer so we weren’t able to.

Our solution (we thought) was that our au pair could take a weekend class– the one we found is offered through Sojourner-Douglas College. We were made aware of these classes through other au pairs in our community who have used the classes to satisfy the requirement. Our agency (Interexchange) told us these courses are not allowed by the State Dept.

I know that au pairs sometimes fail to complete the education requirement, and that as long as they are not out any money, it doesn’t become a big deal. BUT in this case it matters that she complete her credits– she want’s to expend, but not with us. (We are shifting to family care.)

We enrolled our au pair in a local free ESL course but she will be short the 60 hours needed AND now the agency has told us she must satisfy those hours by the end of November in order for her to extend.

I am trying to find our if these classes DO satisfy the requirements (as far as I can tell they do).

If not, are there any other ways to satisfy the educational requirement, that we might have missed?

We have already tried — appealing to audit at local colleges, appealing to the agency to accept the weekend course, talking with LCC, talking with several different people within the agency… to no avail. We have two local universities and a tech school who would not even allow her to audit a course without a full admission, TOEFL, and transcripts from Thailand.

The course she is taking now is a free ESL class. While there are other ESL courses available, but I don’t have the time to drive her to ESL class every day.

Thanks for any help you can provide!

 

See also:
Options for Fulfulling the Au Pair Education Requirement: Online Classes?
Learning about the “Education Requirement”

Image: HittingTheBooks, AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by pindarninja

{ 31 comments }

NoVA Twin Mom October 10, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Where are you located? (or did I overlook that?)

PA AP Mom October 10, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I don’t know if your agency has a policy that weekend classes don’t count, but if they say the State Department doesn’t accept them, then that’s false.

Our APs have taken weekend classes at through Sojourner Douglass and they have always counted towards fulfillment of the educational component.

German Au-Pair October 10, 2013 at 5:21 pm

I know that the tree big agencies allow those classes, so that information is definitely wrong. I’d appeal to that.

Emerald City HM October 10, 2013 at 4:22 pm

What classes does the LCC say other au pairs in the cluster take? If they are going to just poo-poo everything you propose they should have a valid solution.

I would call again and ask why the weekend class doesn’t count. Because there is no transcript? The requirement is accredited school and that one is.

Is the agency punishing to au pair because you are quitting?

Seattle Mom October 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Hmm what is it about Thai au pairs not fulfilling their education requirement? Our AP is from Thailand as well and I think she might be in danger of not meeting her requirement, but she is already in her 2nd year so she’s not worried about extending. We always leave this up to our au pairs- we get them the course catalogue and the link to the website for the local community college (continuing ed courses- much cheaper than regular academic classes) and they are responsible for figuring out registration. Though if they are confused we help them. And after they register we pay them back.

Anyway I guess it depends where you live as to what the options are. I think if our AP were concerned about meeting her education requirement by the end of November she would enroll in a lot of weekend workshops & classes through the local community center..

I’m really surprised that your agency won’t allow those special AP weekend classes, I thought the whole point of those classes was to help APs meet the educational requirement? I looked into those weekend classes but the closest ones to us are in Los Angeles. And there’s some in upstate NY but it seems like a hassle to get to if you’re not in driving distance- it’s like 2 hours north of the Albany airport.

Sorry, not much help here..

Oranje_Mama October 10, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Apparently the State Dept. only allows 1 weekend course so the other half of her credits need to come from another source if she wants to extend. Ask your LLC where she can get the credits.

LisaExAuPair October 11, 2013 at 3:58 am

Really? I took two weekend classes, and my area director never said anything about that. One was 20 hours and one 40 hours. I was with APC.

Host Mom in the City October 11, 2013 at 7:35 am

Our CC au pair who just left took two weekend classes this summer and fulfilled her requirement. But APIA told us the state department is cracking down and doesn’t want APs to do two of those classes anymore. So I think it’s a very recent change, but I also got the impression that some agencies don’t really care as long as the state department hasn’t said anything specifically.

I’m really surprised your LCC isn’t the one dealing with this issue OP! I’d file this under “I’ll help as much as I can, but not really my emergency.”

Seattle Mom October 11, 2013 at 2:58 pm

That’s exactly how we’re dealing with it. It’s funny cuz our LCC called and spoke with DH and he could tell that she was worried about it, but we don’t really feel like it’s our problem. If AP signs up for the courses and takes them, that’s great- we’ll make sure not to schedule her for when she’s in class, and we’ll pay up to $500 for the tuition. We directed her to all the resources she needs, as far as registering and all that. Beyond that, not our problem!

BBBG October 11, 2013 at 1:39 am

Our last 2 au pairs have taken a weekend course (2 weekends total) through National Louis University in Chicago. It has counted fine for them. They just need the certificate at the end, or some sort of letter, saying they completed the credits. These courses give them what they need to satisfy the requirement. And I think the course was designed specifically to meet the requirement!

Juju October 11, 2013 at 6:14 am

I think there might have been some change to the rules because, at first, our Au Pair Agrncy said our Aupair could take a weekend class however, the entire cluster was sent an email a few months ago saying that the weekend classes were no longer an option.

JenNC October 11, 2013 at 8:47 am

HEre is the link for the us govt requirement. http://j1visa.state.gov/educational-component/

It just states aupair must have the number of credits at a u.s. Accredited post secondary institution. As long as the aupair gets a letter stating she has gone to an accredited class or program and completed the hours it should suffice. Jen

Abba October 11, 2013 at 9:09 am

Have you tried asking a sympathetic faculty member at the local college for an “unofficial” audit? I teach at a major public university, and it’s way too expensive (and cumbersome, as you’ve found) to officially enroll either for credit or an official audit. But AP’s in our town have traditionally asked faculty members (generally with an introduction from the host family or a connected family friend) if they can sit in on a class. At the end of the semester, the professor just writes a letter on university letterhead indicating what class hours they took. Two agencies have accepted this thus far. One other option that has worked with us is free ESL classes offered at the University. Though not officially a university class, they have counted because they are connected (however tangentially) to the school.

Seattle Mom October 11, 2013 at 3:03 pm

That’s a great idea. My husband teaches math (and sometimes physics & astronomy) at a couple of local community colleges and the big university in town. He could probably hook our AP up with an audit, if necessary, but all his connections are in the math & science department… so far neither of our APs would want to take math/science, especially in English.

Dorsi October 11, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Maybe your husband can get a special dispensation, but the Seattle area colleges that I have looked at (including UW) have written audit policies — and you can’t do it unless you are willing to pay full tuition. Ridiculous. It is shameful that the federal government requires (and the agencies promise) a meaningful educational experience and the local governments make it nearly impossible. (Seattle community colleges also have a ban on APs – of J1 visa holders taking any of their subsidized community ESL classes).

Multitasking Host Mom October 11, 2013 at 9:56 am

My goodness! I can just imagine how frustrated you are by all this. You might have already done this, but I would call the agency directly and ask to speak to someone with some authority. You need to talk to someone who could actually say yes, and not just someone who is repeating what they were told. You are following the requirements that were in place when you initially signed your contract. They should up hold that even though the state department might now be interpreting something differently. Also, you were not given any advance notice of this change that the agency is now enforcing. That is not what you and your au pair signed up for. I hope that you can speak with someone who realizes that all you are trying to do is help your au pair. Good luck!
Our most recent au pair took two weekend classes (total of 6 days) through a local university. It would have been about a year ago, last fall. The class was set up just for au pairs, miraculously cost exactly $500 if you signed up for both classes at the same time, and fulfilled all of the requirements. I found out about it through my LCC. I also had another au pair who took ESL classes through a community college to fulfill her requirements, but it could only be the classes that gave college credit, ie that I had to pay for. The same community college also offered free classes, but those would not count as education requirements.
This once again brings me to my thoughts about is this educational requirement even worth it. When interviewing au pairs, they often have these big ideas of what it means to take classes at an American college. And I have now seen both of my au pairs be really disappointed when they realize the only way to do this financially is to take the classes at a community college and not at the fancy private college they thought they could get into; they might not be able to get into the classes they really want because they need requirements that they lack; and oh yeah, you have to pay hundreds of dollars for it because the $500 that the host family is required to provide barely covers one class at said community college. Maybe this was a good idea when the au pair program first started, and college was a lot cheaper, but I feel it needs to be revisited for these current economic times. State Department, are you listening?!

Don't get it October 11, 2013 at 1:06 pm

I must be in a minority here, but why is this in any way the HP problem? I am too busy to deal with this stuff. It’s AP’s responsibility to figure out their education requirement – she has way more hours in the week to deal with it than I do. I invest 20 minutes in her 1st month to explain her options and send her an email with links to local colleges. Done. I would only give it a second thought if I planned to extend with this AP. In this case, sounds like the OP put herself in the driver’s seat on this one and is now in charge of fixing things. Why do that to yourself?

Skny October 12, 2013 at 11:06 am

My view is that au pair wasn’t allowed to take summer classes because it was not convenient for the family, as they. Had something going on. And now she can’t take other class that would count because the family can’t take the time to drive her to the farther classes (that would count).
I might be wrong but that is what I understood. If the family is partially responsible for the au pair inability to take classes, then yes it is partially their problem.

Skny October 12, 2013 at 11:14 am

It says hm went on active duty during summer so au pair couldn’t take classes, and there are other ESL classes the au pair could take that would count but “I don’t have time to take her to ESL classes every day”. So I am guessing au pAir does not drive or has access to a car. It makes it harder to resolve it by herself.

AnotherSeattleHostMom October 11, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Aren’t there online courses that could meet this requirement? There MUST be because there was a girl in the cluster here who lived on one of the Puget Sound Islands and there was no college nearby so she did all online…

Seattle Mom October 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm

It might also help to copy the State Department official in charge of the AP program when you email your agency on this issue. I did that in the past on a separate issue and got a lightning fast response from my agency (CCAP) and the issue was resolved in my favor. Quickly. You just have to go to the State Department website and figure out who the right person is. As a former fed, I know the power of the cc line.

FWIW this issue sounds like it would be easier for the agency to solve than the one I had. In my case my AP’s preferred travel date home (30 days past her last day working for me) was within our agency’s travel black-out period, so she was only going to get 10 days of travel (no flights from Dec 18th to Jan 4th, and I think her last day was Dec 6th so she really lost out). Since travel was a big reason for her to be an AP and something she had really been looking forward to, and the agency never told her when she signed up that this travel ban was in effect and would cut her travel month short by a lot, we felt it was pretty unfair. We never knew about it either. So I wrote my email with the right tone of professional outrage, and got a response from CCAP that they would make an exception and allow AP to book her travel anytime she wanted, as long as there were still flights available (the Christmas season). This will not be an issue for us this time because our next AP was a rematch and our current AP ends her year in January.. phew.

AnotherSeattleHostMom October 11, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Forgot to say…I think this is a more expensive option but if she really wants to stay she might need to pony up!

Dorsi October 11, 2013 at 2:04 pm

A far as I know, only APIA has a special agreement with UCLA to offer an online/hybrid course that the SD accepts. It also costs exactly $500. I think the education part of the program is poorly executed, disappointing, and a big hassle for both sides. It really needs to reassessed. I try to explain prior to match what APs can expect — and I think they often match with other families thinking that they will get a better American college experience.

Hayley October 11, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Hello – my advice is in line with @Jen’s, above, and that is to ensure that all credits are administered through a post-secondary institution, which is the rule prescribed by the federal government for au pairs. There isn’t any educational methodology that the federal government specifically prohibits in their code – see for yourself at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2010-title22-vol1/xml/CFR-2010-title22-vol1-sec62-31.xml

I’ve found that with both agencies I worked with, I had to educate the LCC/AD on what constitutes a post-secondary institution (PSI) – it’s not always traditional brick-and-mortar colleges. For example, in our town, there’s an adult school that offers classes, and while the classes are administered physically in one of our high schools and the organization doesn’t have the word “college” in the title, their classes qualify due to the adult school’s registration as a PSI. I actually had to appeal this to the HQ level because the agencies don’t have as good an understanding of the federal requirements as I think they should.

I used the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Database to provide accreditation to my agencies; however, I looked up Sojourner-Douglass in the WASC database (located here: http://www.acswasc.org/directory_searchlist.cfm) and it’s not in there. If I were you, I’d point to their other accreditations to demonstrate that they are indeed an “accredited post-secondary institution” consistent with the federal code that governs AP’s educational requirements. Here’s S-D’s website that lists their accreditations: http://www.sdc.edu/about/accreditation.asp

Best of luck with this battle – I wish agencies would simplify attainment of these educational requirements. Educating their own representatives on which schools qualify would be a good start.

Oh, and @Dorsi – while APIA facilitates that UCLA class you mentioned, my AP #2 took that class while we were with CCAP. All it took was a letter from my LCC to the Boston Office and we obtained permission for our CCAP AP to obtain her credits through the online class. APIA was easy to work with and very gracious about allowing us to piggyback on their class with an out-of-agency AP. Au Pair Care, however, was not willing to allow AP #3 to do this – so you see, everything depends on an agency’s willingness to be flexible and on their staff’s awareness of the rules.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm

I have been hosting APs for 12 1/2 years (when APs could knock out 2 community college classes for $500) and the HF stipend has remained the same.

Personally, I don’t think the educational component is a bad idea. And in fact, you learn a lot about what is important to your AP when you see what she does with the requirement. Some of my APs have taken it very seriously, and have taken for-credit ESL courses with the idea of remaining in the country (1 in 8 did). Others have taken voice, Italian, weekend courses, and creative writing.

If your AP does not intend to extend, then there is not much the State Dept. can do to enforce the educational requirement. However, if she wants to extend, then she must complete it. Personally, I feel that since you took away her option to work on the requirement over the summer for your professional reasons, that you have an obligation to help her meet the requirement in time to extend.

1) Ask your LCC for assistance
2) If your LCC isn’t great, and your AP has friends who participate in the program through other clusters or even agencies, then ask for their LCCs’ contact info. Maybe they know better.
3) Contact HQ and push. You’re paying them, even if you’re leaving the program at the end of the year. Make them work for you and your AP.

resa524 October 13, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Attached is information regarding education opportunities:
All au pairs must take 6 credits (72 class room hours) of education at a post-secondary accredited institution. This normally means a community college or university, but we have had au pairs take classes at other vocational or English schools, as long as they have the right accreditation. Au Pairs can take any course from these schools including continuing education classes. If the classes are offered through a rec. center, library, or K-12 public school, they are probably not post-secondary accredited. Au Pairs can take credit or non-credit classes or they can audit classes, but they cannot take online classes.

Some schools offer weekend classes that are geared to au pairs. These classes are a good option for au pairs who find it difficult to find educational opportunities in their local area or for Au Pairs who would like to travel and see other parts of the US. Often Au Pairs can get 3 credits done in one weekend. Here are links so some of the programs:

http://www.weekendprogram.org/

http://silverbayaupaircourse.com/

http://www.liu.edu/cwpost/aupair

http://www.regonline.com/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=940716

http://www.mville.edu/images/stories/Undergraduate_Academics/EnglishLanguageInstitute/Summer_2012_Part_Time_ELI_Catalog.pdf http://www.regonline.com/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=966091

http://www.nl.edu/aupair/boston.cfm

CG October 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Thanks everyone for the responses! This is my question and we are still working through this.

I do think it is our responsibility to make sure she meets the requirement because me being gone over the summer made it more challenging. (In fairness to us if she had passed her driver’s test she could have taken classes over the summer because she could have driven herself but she did not). Unfortunately our plan to make up for that was this weekend class, which I wanted to confirm with the agency prior to paying and was told no.

There are only a handful of au pairs in our area. One with a different agency used the weekend classes, two took the lame local ESL classes with our previous au pairs, and the other one is not sure what she will do as she was thinking she would do the weekend classes too.

I have e-mailed the State Dept (generic J-1 Visa e-mail address) with no response so I am wondering if anyone has a good contact e-mail or phone number. The school is listed as approved and they told me they are accepted by the State Dept but it is up to the individual agency what they will take.

Thanks for all of your advice and suggestions!

Returning HM October 14, 2013 at 9:33 pm

I know this won’t help OP, but maybe others might be interested in this:

East Coast Adventures, which partners with Mass Bay College in Wellesley MA, offers weekend travel classes that fulfill three credits each. Naturally, these attract a lot of au pairs! Our AP last year did two of them, though she only counted one towards her credits (she also took class at Harvard – what a great experience for her!). Our AP the year before also took one — came all the way up from Washington DC, where we lived at the time, to do so. Both APs really liked the Mass Bay classes. They traveled to some cool places (Quebec, Montreal, Niagara), and learned a lot of interesting historical and cultural information about the sites they visited.

Another option for APs are the late-starting courses that many community colleges offer. These run not on traditional semester Sept-Dec or Jan-May schedules but rather start, say, in November and go til December, meeting just six times, or start in late March and go til May. Our Educare au pair took a few of these two years ago, when she arrived too late in August to take the English exam in time to register for fall courses, but she absolutely had to take classes or she wouldn’t have been able to complete all of the credits required by the Educare program.

Hope there are options like this available out west for OP.

3kids1dogHM October 15, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Our LCC gave us a list of all the educational options and how much they cost, and has been really helpful with providing assistance and answering questions. I’d push harder with your agency to get some help with this, if your LCC doesn’t have ideas then another LC in another cluster might have some experience with this. In our case, there is a weekend course of some sort available to us (APIA), and I’ve seen other weekend options and also online options available.

cg December 30, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I realized I had never come back to update. I ended up calling the State Dept. I talked to the random person who answered the phone, and by the end of the day I had a call from the agency saying that the weekend classes were allowed. Our au pair did her class at National Louis University in Chicago and it was great!

exAP&2xmom April 1, 2014 at 10:21 am

AuPairs who need credits fast can now complete their entire educational requirement in one-long weekend in Florida in May (23-26) for $500. Or get 3 credits in two days (plus pre/post work). Visit website http://www.nl.edu/aupair

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