Learning about the “Education Requirement”

by cv harquail on June 1, 2009

The education requirement for au pairs on one of those features of the program that can be misleading, both for families and for au pairs themselves. My sense is that the US, the agencies and the LCCs all know that meeting the requirements with ‘only’ $500 tuition credit is almost impossible. And, they rely on clever LCCs, community ESL programs, wealthy host families, and au pairs willing to accept something less to find a way to make it work. If I could change 3 things about the way au pair programs are run, this education requirement situation is one that I’d change.

200906011157.jpg Along with some of the other things that au pairs and host families are told about the program, there is a large gap between the myth of the Education Requirement and the reality of the education requirement.

The problems?

1. Misleading advertising .

One of the ways that au pair programs ARE advertised outside the US to attreact au pairs is to describe the au pair year as a chance to "study abroad" or "go to school in the US".

2. Legitimation for the special Au Pair immigration status

And, within the US, the education requirement is what gets the au pairs their special immigration status…as I understand it, they qualify for visas more on the status of ‘exchancge student’ than ’employee’. (You can see the heritage of this thinking in the relationship between the agency Au Pair in America and its larger for profit holding company, the American Institute for Foreign Study. )

The reality

Conflicting Priorities : Au Pairs aren’t here to study. They are here to work, and live, and travel, and have fun, and learn, more or less in that order.

There is almost no way that an au pair can afford the time or the money to "study" during her year here. With a 45 hours work week, $179/ week in pocket money, and an arrival/departure schedule that rarely coordinates with college semesters and quarters, it can be very hard for an au pair to really be a student. This is not to say that taking classes is a bad idea, or that it is worthless  — far from it. Taking classes gets au pairs out of the house, into a group setting, often with other young people and can be a way to improve their English and make friends.200906011156.jpg

Conflicting schedules: College classes and childcare schedules often conflict. Let’s face it, who wants to have an au pair taking classes at a time when the family needs childcare? How often can a family ‘protect’ the au pair’s class time, like when a child is home sick and both parents must go to work? How many parents can promise that they car will always be available Tuesday nights from 7 to 9?

V oodoo Economics: Just where can a young person get 6 credits on an allowance of $500 per year? Our au pairs have always had trouble finding classes (1) they could afford, (2) that offered credits, (3) that were nearby, (4) that were taught at a convenient time, (5) that interested them. Even the community colleges in our towns have been either too expensive or unwilling to accept students for just one or two classes. (It can be hard for the au pairs to meet the residency requirements to get ‘in county’ rates.)

I actually feel sorry for the girls who want to take classes (beyond ESL) who then realize how expensive classes actually are. The cost of tuition really comes as a shock to girls whose home counties either subsidize or foot the entire higher education bill. Sometimes the au pairs get mad at the host families, blaming the family for their ‘unwillingness’ to pay for classes

No one taking responsibility: My sense is that the agencies know how hard it is for the girls to find classes that meet the US legal requirements, and that the agencies depend on good LCCs to help the au pairs bend the rules just enough to make it all look like ‘enough’ to qualify. I also suspect that the agencies hope that host families will take care of the additional costs… They can’t be expecting the au pairs to pay very much for their classes, and yet some agencies hold the girls accountable for taking classes by not giving them back their deposits or not letting the girls extend for a 2nd year unless the education requirement can be met. This seems so unfair to me.

Some options:

200906011157.jpg ESL classes: The au pairs that have had the best times with classes are those who have needed to improve their English and have taken English as a second language courses, which are offered in our town for a reasonable fee. In both towns, our LCC has been able to get the ‘for credit’ requirement "bent" shall we say, so that these non-credit courses have "counted".

"Weekend" classes: Yes, we know it’s just a 3 day party somewhere on Long Island (and so NOT near New York City, btw), with a few lectures on "American Traditions" thrown in there, but who really cares? The au pairs get credits, they meet people, they do learn something about American culture (maybe not only in the classroom) and they satisfy their requirements. It’s too bad that those travel tours no longer are accepted as classes– those were a great way to meet the requirement and also have fun.

Bendy rules: We have had LCCs who have been able to negotiate with both the county college and the agency to get the girls in-county tuition and/or credit for classes like "Photoshop your way to a new career".

Respecting the basic intent: We have sometimes encouraged our au pairs to take short classes in the town’s Adult School (for $35 a pop) to get them out of the house and learning something new, even when these classes aren’t "official". In this way, we can respect the basic intent of having the au pair out and about, learning something new.

We have also given our au pairs the $500 outright as a way to make up for the deposit they won’t get back at the end of the program because they haven’t met the requirement. This is one of the places where I have been willing to break the rules as long as I have had a way to make it work for our au pairs.

Here’s a comment from a Mom with questions about how to deal with the Education Requirement:

Dear aupairmom.com … I have a question about the educational requirements. The aupairs are required to take six credit hours of coursework for their visa. Our LCC dutifully signed our aupair up last fall at our local community college. When I took our aupair to the bursar to pay for the class, I was shocked to find out that the cost was $800 for only the fall, and would be another $800 for the spring. $300 to make up the difference between our $500 obligation and the full cost seemed like a lot for a young woman who had just gotten here from Europe, so our family happily paid the whole amount. We later let her know that she would have to pay for the next semester herself.

While I think attending classes at the college has been a great experience for our aupair, I don’t think that cost should be part of the deal. My question is this: do all the aupairs pay this much, or is there a sneaky way of getting around this, like auditing a course instead of registering as a student? 200906011157.jpg

Looking for suggestions. Amy

Have you found any great ways to meet the basic intent of the Education requirements, in a way that satisfies everyone? Please share….

{ 48 comments }

Franzi June 1, 2009 at 2:42 pm

back in may AP days, i was told to either take 6 credits OR the equivalent in time hours (at that time 80 classroom hours). so auditing a course was absolutely ok because i was earning my time hours, and auditing is much cheaper. did this change? does it have to be credit only?

regarding when to take courses, my families both made it clear that childcare comes first i.e. if the kids were not in school on a day that i had class, they expected me to miss the class. because this was clearly communicated and agreed upon by both sides, there was no problem when we indeed did run into such a problem.
also, the first family discussed different classes with me – and was flat out directly telling me that this and that class would not work because they expected me to work from 5-7 and not be in college at that time.

unfortunately, i think many LCCs leave the whole class selection up to the clueless AP and their overworked host parents. personally, i had no help from the counselor, instead my host parents and other APs helped me with the admin stuff.

getting in-state tuition can be troublesome, i think many families have that problem. but don’t give up!

D June 1, 2009 at 3:56 pm

We utilize the ESL at a community college & audit classes at a local university (some colleges/universities don’t discount for audit, so make sure to check….check all universities in your area)

Upon arrival we pay for 1 ESL for $25 at the college & enroll our au pair right away. We look at this as critical for the au pair to get out of the house as soon as she is here. Keep in mind many au pairs find its nice to get the educational component done early, so they can vacation, have fun & travel. ESL is typically not a credit course, however, our counselor says the time counts towards the requirement & the institution is a college so its valid.

After the ESL our au pair can choose to take whatever class she likes & anywhere….audit or not We communicate costs from 3-4 universities. The audit course is $375 that we found (half the tuition price) So most au pairs take this option versus $600 – $1000 for normal classes. After 1 full college course like this….the girls often realize how much time is involved. Between watching kids & class, they are tired. Yes, they aren’t much interested in course work after that. As a trip to CA is more fun. :)

Audit classes are normal college courses, just not full transferable credit. Their is no reason these can’t be used as they are at accredited instutions.

So make sure the class is legit with american culture & english. THat the school is accredited.

Let me know if this is wrong.

D June 1, 2009 at 4:08 pm

p.s.
to my post.

We enroll our girls into ESL right away upon arrival. Let them choose the 2nd class. Which is ESL next level or we encourage the audit class at the university. Thats our policy. Our current au pair took American Constitutional Law I at the university. We paid $400 for education.

Their almost needs to be a special visa made for the au pairs. So that they can get special tuition breaks. It’s absurd for them to pay double. Not fair.

Calif Mom June 1, 2009 at 6:02 pm

Much depends on the skill of your au pair and how THEY view the importance of education. As a host, I work hard to make sure they are getting what they need and want. I have had the range from arriving stateside only able to say “I’m hungry” to scoring high enough to take upper division classes in business.
Churches and libraries often have fabulous, free conversation groups or even individual lessons. We encourage this with APs who need a lot of practice in a safe atmosphere. I have found, especially at first, sometimes they don’t want to speak improperly in front of hosts! : ) In our metro area, you could pretty easily find classes like these 3 nights a week.
Some counselors are fabulous about helping the girls get signed up, even scheduling times to meet all of them at the school and go through registration with them. The best even sends calendar updates to families and APs so they don’t forget to schedule early, when there are slots available.
Others leave it all up to the girls. I remember how hellish reg days were, don’t you? Talk about a miserable experience…

There are also private language schools that are accredited. These can be a better value than community college, with smaller class size.

We have not tried auditing, but I like the sound of it and will check it out. Our community college does offer resident fees to APs. They have to take a placement test (written and oral) and then return a couple weeks later for the results and to find out which classes they will be allowed to take. THis must all be scheduled long before registration is actually open, so it pays for Hosts to figure out the registration calendar.

Do the math carefully and ask for discounts! A very expensive, well known private university in our town has a program through continuing education that offers a discount to APs, and is actually cheaper than community college for more prestigious and better classes.
Also, ask your au pair if having certificates is useful for her on return back home. Many will fill out an official looking letter or certificate that she can later use in finding jobs or educational pursuits.

Also, we have had au pairs arrive at odd times of year, but it has never kept any of them from getting adequate credit before returning home.

Does anyone have qualms about signing up the APs for Saturday classes? I’ve done that twice, but these were both girls who really wanted to get the most education they could while here, and there was no way to make evenings work for our schedule.

Anna June 1, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Our local community college has “continuing education” courses, that are cheaper than regular degree credits with an out-of-state tuition rate. Usually it is possible to take 6 credits of “continuing ed” courses for just under $500. And each semester there is one or two courses that are exactly 6 credit hours each, cost $400-$500, meet in the evenings, and seem designed specifically for au pairs, and are not ESL (there are also ESL courses in the “continuing education” category for those who need them). Our au pairs each attended such a course and it was filled with au pairs.

Hula Gal June 1, 2009 at 10:43 pm

I think the key is finding non-credit hour classes that meet the requirement. We helped our au pair sign up for a class in our community college’s continuing ed program that was non-credit. This way she could take a real class at a real school but not have to apply, pass the English equivalency exam (TOEFL?) and all those hoops you have to jump through to get accepted into college. That’s just unrealistic for most au pairs not to mention the cost of the courses. Our LCC has been very helpful in getting this information to us. We’ve also learned that we pay for books and gas expenses to and from the class out of the $500. But with the low cost of these classes this can all be done under the limit. CVH – I’m not sure what you mean by giving them $500 outright but we are only paying for each class at a time because we are not required to pay exactly $500 but rather “up to” $500. So if she can get her requirements done for $350 that is all we are obligated for. Some au pairs may be confused about this and may believe they are owed the remaining money which is not the case.

Hula Gal June 1, 2009 at 10:47 pm

I’d also like to add that I agree that it seems the education component is heavily emphasized as part of the au pair experience in the process of recruiting au pairs. This is unfortunate because it leads to false expectations about what their year will be like. One thing I have learned as a first-time host mom is how important it is to manage expectations on your end as well as the au pair’s expectations.

CV June 2, 2009 at 12:03 am

Hi Hula Gal-
what I meant with ‘outright’ is that– when our au pair (who spoke English) could not actually meet the education requirement and thus would have lost her deposit, we gave her $500 in cash. That made up for the deposit she lost. She didn’t take a class, she didn’t lose money, we didn’t save/withold money. Not ‘legal’ but seemed fair.

Mom of 2 Girls June 2, 2009 at 12:15 am

I agree that the way the education component is advertised is misleading and I’m amazed that Hula Gal could meet the requirement for less than $500 – wish we could! Our agency has an additional “class” (for lack of a better word) called EduCare, where those APs who are really serious about studying work only 30 hours per week and the HF pays $1000 for her education (I believe – would have to go check the brochure again), but sadly it’s only offered in certain metro areas.

Jen June 2, 2009 at 2:46 am

I am an LCC and I think the education component is definitely affectected by where you live and can be a challenge. The requirement is that a standard au pair takes 6 credits OR 80 hours of coursework from and accredited post secondary institution. I think au pairs definitely have to be creative if they want to get all their hours or credits for $500. In my area most au pairs take non-credit community education courses- they get all their hours in usually for less than the $500. I do even have an au pair who is getting her Masters degree, but she is the exception- very motivated and able to pay for the classes on her own. Mom of 2 Girls mentioned the EduCare program(part of Au Pair in America), she is correct that the au pair only works 30 hrs and the HF pays $1000 but the key points she is missing is the au pairs must complete 12 credits or 160 hours so the additional money doesn’t really make a difference. Also for a family to be eligible for the program the children must be school aged(5+).

Calif Mom June 2, 2009 at 9:22 am

One other way to stretch the education budget is to find out which books are needed for a particular class and buy them used online. We saved at least $100 last semester (maybe more) doing this for our AP, whose books were going to cost more than the class itself!

Mary June 2, 2009 at 9:42 am

This requirement caused many problems for me. My au pair wanted to take a class at a university that was a 90 mile round trip commute. My rules from day one permit only local driving. I need for her to be nearby in case the kids get sick in school, etc. There is a university 5 miles away from my house, but this wasn’t where her friend was going. Then she wanted to have two afternoon a week off so that she could attend. My au pair puts the kids on the bus in the morning and then doesn’t work again until 3:00 p.m. This class started on 4 p.m. I told her that this was the time that she needed to work and this would not work for our family. My coordinator even called to ask me to let her take the class. She thought it was reasonable that I got alternative childcare for these days!!! Excuse me….but what am I paying an au pair for. I told both of them “absolutely NO” Pick a class in the evenings or on Sat at the local univeristy or go to weekend classes. Everyone thought I was being totally unreasonable because this is why they are an au pair. I also told my au pair from day one to start saving her money for the classes. $500 will not cover the cost of classes and books. Why can’t they take at least 3 credits on line?

Calif Mom June 2, 2009 at 9:48 am

Just had an idea — I know this does nothing to get the AP socializing with other young people in a classroom, but what about online courses? Sounds like a great solution for Mary who is facing an incredible commute to school. Online classes are certainly taught by accredited schools. Anybody tried that? (Any counselors who can weigh in?)

My kids are doing online enrichment (through accredited universities) so why couldn’t our AP? Much more convenient, no gas money, schedule hassles, no snow days to worry about nor parking lot scrapes…

Anonymous June 2, 2009 at 10:02 am

We have an ext. au pair so I am wondering if they still need to take these crdit hours? She completed the requirement her first year.

Momof4 June 2, 2009 at 10:13 am

We also have the rule that our au pair either needs to take classes at night or on the weekend. During the week the days are just way too chaotic to work in classes. We have been fortunate enough that University of Richmond is not too far away and offers some great Weekend courses through their School of Continuing Studies that satisfy the 3 credits. They are fun for the au pairs and a great learning experience. They have a wonderful program and are really trying hard to keep the costs down and offer something often since they are very familiar with the fact that the host family is only responsible for $500 and au pairs arrive at different times throughout the year. They try to keep them under $300 or so.
Our au pair recently took one of those and loved it! She met several other au pairs and befriended girls in our cluster that she probably never wouldd have met!
One of our local colleges offers a $35 rate to audit courses, so that is great, but another local college does not (the one that actually offers ESL classes for credit!) so that’s a bummer and way too expensive.
Also, D.C. is not too far away and luckily, Lado International College was recently approved by our Agency. They offer 3 credit English courses at several levels and a decent price (approx. $245 w/books after the 10% au pair discount) and also offer Saturday classes, so it works out well.
Our current au pair was very nervous about the time it was going to take to take to fulfill her education requirement, but with a little research and creativity, we were able to help get it all done within her first 3 1/2 months. She was relieved, because she was worried she was going to have to take classes during the summer.
I am a huge fan of the local ESL classes!! I really wish they were for credit, but they are not. Our au pair took advantage of the free ESL night classes offered at local churches in the spring as soon as she arrived. I think this really helped her with finding her way around the community and feel more comfortable with her English skills.
Also, check your community centers & adult education centers. We have a local adult education program that offers ESL classes for $20 each year and runs the course of the county school year. They offer day & night courses. This helps a lot and our first au pair’s English improved dramatically after just 10 weeks of Tuesday/Thursday 2 hr each night courses. For $20, we just couldn’t NOT take advantage of it!!

Calif Mom June 2, 2009 at 10:15 am

Mary, just re-read the details of your post. That’s INSANE. You are perfectly reasonable to expect her to take a class at the local university or college. That counselor has her priorities pretty screwed up. Did you call the agency HQ? There were plenty of reasonable alternatives available to the AP… childcare comes first. What a pushy AP, even got the counselor on ‘her side’! I’d bet money you had other problems with her, too. I mean, hello?! You are here so that Mom can work. That’s the basic premise from which this whole relationship flows…

Mary June 2, 2009 at 11:06 am

Calif Mom
This blog has really helped me say NO. It took too much of my personal time, but I found courses and said these are your choices. Then of course we had to deal with cutting classes and the need for a certificate, etc. even if you didn’t attend the required number of classes. From what I can see, most of these girls are young, have not yet attended college, and are not responsible. You have to be their “mother” and let them know how things work. Yes – you must do your homework and hand it in on time, etc. It isn’t all about them. The course requirement places a huge burden on host families. I hope someone has an answer regarding the option to take on-line courses. Does this meet the requirements?

Anonymous June 2, 2009 at 12:51 pm

xxxxx

Anna June 2, 2009 at 1:17 pm

As a former au pair from 2 different families and 2 different states, I can tell that it is very hard to have the education that is asked by the program with $500. With my first family I paid my own money $400 to complete the 6 credits, because if I did not have the credits or the hours required, I would not be able to extend for the second year. (at least it is what the agency told me).
In my second year, I found a free ESL classes in a community college in the city near by, on SUNDAYS, because I could not do it during the weekdays due my schedule. I tried to help my host family , thinking of their needs first, but they did not give me any money of the $500, and I did before that course a CPR training that they required me to do, and I paid from my own pocket gas and toll to go to school, because they said that the course was free. Was it that affair? No, I don´t think so, but the LCC took the family side, and never said a word to them about the money.

Franzi June 2, 2009 at 1:46 pm

regarding ESL classes, i think the quality of the course needs to meet the skills of the AP. i would not have wanted to take an ESL class and only one of my AP friends did.

what is important to note is that books and gas also count to the $500. especially books can make you go over the limit. there are special school book websites that sell used books. also the campus book store might have used books on sale at the beginning of the term.

personally, i think the educare program is a big advertising bogus. the way it is advertised it sounds like you are actually studying in the US wheras in reality, in order to stay within the financial limits, it’s difficult to earn credits let alone credits that transfer back home. girls who have not yet started their academic career have no idea that they cannot put these courses to use back home (i’m leaving out the fact that they are actually learning something – that is a big plus of whatever AP program).

personally, i don’t support online classes. part of the educational requirement is to go out, see and meet new people etc. online courses don’t do that for you.

Theresa June 2, 2009 at 2:05 pm

I’m a former au pair too and I guess I was pretty lucky with classes offered in my area. I’ve been there for 2 years (and yes Anonymous, your au pair does have to fulfill the same educational requirements in her second year (if she is staying for another whole year, I think it’s only 3 credits if you extend for only 6 months)), and I took an ESL classes (which was offered by the University, so an accredited institution) throughout both years. I took them mostly in the morning, on a day when all my kids were in school/preschool, but they were also offered in the evening. In addition to that, I took two evening courses at another college, which were offered for adults (a Spanish course and a Calligraphy course), so they were offered by a college, but they weren’t regular college classes, so they weren’t as expensive (I think under $200 per class).
My LCC was really helpful with finding classes, I think that is important, it can be difficult to figure out what is offered when there are too many colleges.
Regarding the online classes: This used to be an option, but as far as I know, the Department of State changed the rules a couple of years ago, and online classes do not count toward the educational requirements any longer.

Jen June 2, 2009 at 5:27 pm

First off it is not the agencies that have the education requirement, it is the State Department that issues the Visa, an au pair would not be eligible to be in the US if she was not fulfilling her visa requirements including completing 6 credits or 80 hours. The State Department has said that online classes do not fulfill the education requirement- part or the purpose of the education is to get girls in the community and meeting people, if the class was online this would not be happening. Also as to Mary’s situation, you were well within your rights, I always tell my au pairs and host families that classes must be picked together to make sure that they fit the families schedule- I do tell families that once a class is picked it that time needs to be “protected”.

Erin June 2, 2009 at 9:09 pm

What types of courses should my au pair take if she already has perfect English? She wants to take beauty courses or dance. Does this count?

Darthastewart June 2, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Erin,
It probably depends on the agency. Some will tell you yes, some no.

As far as staying under the 500 limit for education, I think it really depends on where you are in the country. Here in NC, I’ve had au-pairs for almost 11 years, and haven’t had an au-pair YET who hit the 500 limit. Not even auditing courses @ a local private college.

I really think that the agencies should do a better job letting the au-pairs know that the COL in the area you want to go to can really affect the quality of your year. While Manhattan may sound great, it costs a lot more to do everything there, and 200/week isn’t going to go very far.

AnnaAuPair June 3, 2009 at 9:21 pm

I guess I was very fortunate with the location of both my hostfamilies. With my fist hostfamily I took ESL @ the nearest college (8 h 10 Saturdays for $400), but although I was in the highest level I was bored the whole time (we did stuff I did in 8th grade in my home country).
With my second family I took Continuing Education Classes at the college, which are a lot more fun. They are in the evening and because I work 8 – 5 every day, my choices weren’t thaaat big, but big enough, to find classes that were fun =)

The number of hours an Au Pair has to take depends on the agency. It’s either 6 credits or with AuPairCare 60 hours, with CulturalCare 72 or apparently with other agencies even more.

I know that a lot of my friends have a hard time finding classes, because of their work schedules. Personally I think the government should change the regulations!!!!

TX Mom July 16, 2009 at 3:51 pm

I’m wondering what most families do when their AP uses the full $500 of education allowance but still needs to take classes to fulfill their credits. (CV, do you have a poll?) I tell our AP’s we will pay up to $500 for education expenses (classes and books/supplies) but they may need to pay more to meet their education requirement. My LCC says locally the credits cost less than other areas in the country so I think our AP’s don’t have to pay alot out of pocket. In other parts of the country, I could imagine the AP’s out of pocket expenses could become larger than the deposit they are trying to retreive.

AZ HM July 16, 2009 at 8:12 pm

We paid all of our AP’s tuition for the 6 hours at a local CC. This ended up being closer to $600. Our AP covered books/supplies. I’ve looked for private ESL courses for our next AP but the cost is even more than the CC. I couldn’t find a break for auditing or no credit courses.

About whether we should offer the new AP “up to” $500 or pay all the tuition as we did for our current AP – I’m torn. We want to be generous although we are on a much tighter budget this year and we are feeling a bit taken advantaged of with the current AP. Is it expected that the family pay more than the $500 educational requirement if it cost more just for the tuition?

Calif Mom July 16, 2009 at 9:59 pm

I just got an ad from APIA about a $500 online class that IS approved for APs and gets them all their credits, developed by UCLA.

Hula Gal July 16, 2009 at 10:21 pm

We were feeling taken advantage of with our au pair (we are in rematch now) and therefore we would not have considered spending any more than the $500. You are only required to spend up to $500. If you choose to spend more I’d think you’d want to make that call on a case by case basis depending on the relationship you have with your au pair. I would not make any promises in the beginning until you have assessed the relationship.

Anonymous September 3, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Question – my Au Pair signed up for fee ESL classes through a local community ed program. She has since asked me for $500 which is she states is part of the agreement. I explained that as the classes are free, we do not have to pay this. She disagrees.

Thoughts? Feedback??

Busy Mom September 3, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Anonymous,

My contract with my agency obligates me “to pay tuition up to a maximum of $500 per au pair per year.” I interpret this to mean that the au pair is entitled only to the amount of the tuition and nothing more. I have paid the tuition directly to the institution, so there’s no reimbursement involved.

However, if my au pair had opted to take a class in NYC for which the tuition was less than $500, but which would have required her to purchase a train ticket each week, I would have given her the rest of the $500 toward the train. I guess I’d consider this a cost directly associated with the class, like the parking fee and the registration fee charged by another local college.

If my au pair wanted to take a free course, I personally would not give her the $500. Instead, I’d explain that you usually get what you pay for and encourage her to use the $500 toward a better class.

Do these free classes even count toward her credits? Our agency will count ESL classes only if they are offered through an accredited institution – e.g., continuing ed program at a local community college, ESL classes offered by the language center of a local community college, weekend english language courses which are all sponsored by colleges. Our LCC is explicit that community ESL classes, like those offered by some local churches, don’t count.

Anna September 4, 2009 at 1:57 am

Anonymous, she should bring it up to the councelor, who is sure to back you up. It is “up to $500” and for tuition. I never paid it directly to au pairs, and if their 6 credits were less than $500, I paid for parking and books, but not more.

Host Mom VA September 4, 2009 at 8:13 am

If the classes count as credit towards her educational requirement then I think you would have to pay up to $500 for any books etc (paying once you see a receipt or 2!) and you would obviously be covering the cost of gas to and from school, but otherwise no, tell her no.
It is not $500 free cash!
If the classes do not count as credit then she is on her own entirely.

TX Mom September 4, 2009 at 10:47 am

I had an AP who attended free local ESL classes but APIA would not give credit for them. So she also took ESL from the community college which I paid for as part of her $500 education allowance to get APIA credit. If the AP can take other classes, I would not give her the $500. I have heard some families give the AP the education allowance if their schedule doesn’t enable the AP to attend classes which allows them to get credit. The logic (as I understand) is to offset the deposit they will lose at the end of the year for not completing their education credits. I highly encourage the comunity college ESL classes if the AP’s English is poor because the classes are “harder” than the local free classes (in our area.)

CoCa September 4, 2009 at 1:06 pm

I would never even entertain the idea of giving an AP the education allowance if she isn’t using it to pay for classes. No more than I would give an AP who doesn’t eat much a part of my weekly food budget, as she *could* have been costing me more if she had a bigger appetite.

I find the mere suggestion preposterous, but I guess it may be that she has misunderstood the agreement and needs a chat with the LCC.

Calif Mom September 4, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Anonymous — red flag alert! that’s money to the college, not to her!!! you may have an exploitive girl on your hands. or at least one who doesn’t listen carefully to nuance and is not afraid to put her hand out/be a little pushy.

Anonymous September 5, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Long before the aupair arrives, as soon as placement is confirmed, I send her some links of different schools she can investigate in terms of classes. I pay the money directly to the school.
My agency told me that if the aupair fulfills her requirements for less than $500, I do not have to give her any additional money. There are lots of opportunities here in the NY metropolitan area but they are all expensive. I think that it is impossible to do this for less than $600.00
That is the downside of living in the East – living is expensive.

NoVA Host Mom September 6, 2009 at 7:35 pm

I have found the LADO program to be very helpful for us, but someone previously mentioned that the $500 is to include transportation, etc. We are with APIA, and they specifically tell us (as often as possible) that the education money is $500 for tuition and books/supplies, etc, as well as the cost of transportation (gas & parking or bus/rail, whatever).

For our AP to go to the evening classes, it is $25/week in public transportation for the 8 weeks of the class. Much cheaper than paying for her to be added to the insurance. I am so grateful we are on the bus lines. I had not even considered it when we moved here 2 years ago.

Anonymous October 5, 2009 at 9:14 am

Hello everyone. I have a quesion. Do you think it is reasonable to as AP to miss one class during the semester if we have something that has come up and it will cost us a lot of money (over $250) if we don’t cannot ask AP to miss one of her classes.

TX Mom October 5, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I think it’s reasonable as long as you don’t do it so often that the AP loses credit for the class. After all, you are basically paying for the class.

Busy Mom October 5, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Anonymous, I agree with TX mom. I had to do this once with our 1st au pair when one of my kids was sick. I had no back-up care that day and my husband and I both had important meetings and couldn’t work at home. I explained and apologized profusely. Another time, we scrambled for grandparet back-up to cover her class.

New Mom December 10, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Do you think it’s fair to ask the aupair to reimburst you the education allowance at least some of the moneyh if she breaks the contract and wants to go home after three months in to the contract.

MommyMia December 10, 2010 at 4:41 pm

You should check with your agency – the contracts do vary on this point. However, I doubt that they will support you on this, but it’s worth trying. Some agencies don’t give the APs a completion bonus or refund their “deposits” if they leave early, so it’s likely your AP won’t have saved up much, if any, money after so short a time, and may actually need to purchase her own plane ticket to return home!

HRHM December 11, 2010 at 4:27 pm

I think the best policy is to have the AP pay for the class upfront and then reimburse her at completion (they way most employers handle tuition assistance) That way if she skips out early you won’t have paid for a class she didn’t finish. This of course won’t help if she takes a weekend course and finishes it. You can always hand her the stipend in cash and then ask for part of it back as compensation (the way many host families handle getting money back from auto deductibles or other monies owed by APs)

Taking a Computer Lunch December 12, 2010 at 12:20 am

I’ve never been in your situation. We’ve always paid our education allowance up front, and we’ve never had a problem with APs completing the cost. While a couple of APs have taken what I consider junky weekend courses, most have been quite serious about studying English. Most have taken more than the minimum (which means on their own dime).

One thing that shocks me, quite frankly, is that the education allowance hasn’t changed at all in the 9 1/2 years we’ve been hosting (not that I actually have money to pay more at the moment). Our first two APs could meet their education requirement on $500, the last 4 have not.

AuPairBrazil February 14, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Hi, I’m in the process to be an AP.
So, this topic about education requirement is quite important to me. One of the reasons that I choose the AuPair Program is because I can have all the that I expect from an exchange program. Work,English, study.
I’m 24 years old, I just graduated from Translation/Interpretation and I worked my 4 years during college. I used to work from 8a.m-5/6 p.m and go to college at 7p.m to 10:40p.m, and from my third year I started to took classes on Sat and I can say that I manage all those years prelly well. I studied hard at college and always did my best at work. When I started to work with kids I have no problems, I woke up early and did my best for them, playing, teaching, caring, with love and responsability.
So, I really want to make a good course while my AP year, not just a ESL course, but a course that is relevant in my career, that will make a difference in my resumé when I come back to Brazil. I know I’m capable of, I know I can handle with job and study, I did this my entire life. And about the money, in my case, if the credits are not enough I can paid for the extras, I safed for this.
And despite all my hard working I always have fun with my friends, going to movies, travelling etc.
And I know that most of the young people here in Brazil have to do this, to work and study. Work all day long and go to college at night, cause we need to pay for our education, and most of this kids done wery well in both places.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 14, 2011 at 10:07 pm

If you want to take a course of study relevant to your career, then you must keep in mind that many American colleges make basic English composition a requirement for all incoming students. Many colleges require taking an English placement test, and for those students that don’t score well, some ESL classes may be required. One way to prevent this is to take the TOEFL or equivalent test and score well enough to place out of ESL classes. I will admit that in the 10 years I have hosted, not one AP has placed out of ESL classes – the European APs were able to take the advanced ESL composition classes, but my Brazilian and Chinese APs needed to take speech, reading and several writing classes. Practicing with a native English speaker before you arrive will make comprehending and speaking easier.

I think this is one area where the agencies really fall down. APs are convinced that they may study anything, and then find that colleges have strict regulations. I have had many APs chafe under the restrictions. Be realistic about what you will be able to accomplish in one year in the US. I did have one Brazilian AP who took a full-course load while she cared for my infant and toddler – no mean feat – but she was determined to stay in the US and make a life for herself here.

AuPairBrazil February 15, 2011 at 10:42 am

Thanks for the tips.

I think one way to make this work is to utilize the ESL at a community college & audit classes at a local university, and maybe later, if possible, do something that is worth in my carrer.
I think it’s important to study to keep your mind working, you know?! I like to study something that make me interesting to, so I think we just need to find a way that make everyone happy, both family and the AP.

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