Options for Fulfulling the Au Pair Education Requirement: Online Classes?

by cv harquail on October 29, 2010

Dear AuPairMoms:

I’m a first-time host-parent to a lovely 21 year old first-time Au Pair from Scandinavia (through Cultural Care), as well as a first-time mom of 19 month old twins, and I really enjoy this site.

I’m hoping your readers might have some sage advice for me. I’m starting to obsess over this issue, which is ridiculous because the last thing I have time to do it obsess about anything. But when it comes to my Au Pair, who is a bit on the lackadaisical side of life, in addition to being pretty naïve, I often feel like nothing will get done unless I dive in and take over.

201010281740.jpgSo here’s the current problem:

We just moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to a remote alpine resort town 3.5 hours away. When we visited the area for an extended vacation we were glad to see a small college in town, half a mile from our home, and we presumed (I know, never make any presumptions) if we moved here, that we’d simply enroll our au pair in an inexpensive Community Education class at this college. We noted that this college is chock-full of Scandinavians, making my Au Pair feel like she has died and gone to heaven.

When we decided we wanted to move here by mid-September, and contacted the college for enrollment information, we were told that all of the classes were full, cost a minimum of $600 per credit, and that they don’t even have a Community Education program! The college suggested classes that Au Pair could take in the Spring semester at their sister-school, but that school is a 45 minute drive each way, and our Au Pair doesn’t know how to drive (public transportation here exists, but that route between our home and the sister-school would take 2 hours each way).

We asked the only other Au Pair in town what she does, and she drives an hour each way 3 times per week to the closest small-city University. I also asked the area’s LCC, who told me along the lines of, “That school in your town is a pain in the neck to get into. The next closest place is over an hour drive in each direction, so if your Au Pair doesn’t drive, that’s a big problem. Maybe the Area Coordinator has a suggestion.”

I might also add that me driving Au Pair to school an hour each way, staying for her class and driving her home is not going to work because my husband is away 3 nights a week, and her classes would take place during her time off, while my babies are sleeping, so please, let’s not go there.

I spoke with our former Area Coordinator at Cultural Care, who isn’t very familiar with my new home town, but did tell me that there simply aren’t enough Au Pairs here to make it worthwhile to them to make a concession, and advised me that Au Pair could take a weekend class at one of two East Coast locations: Silver Bay YMCA 80 miles north of Albany, or CW Post, which isn’t too far out on Long Island.

Bingo!, I thought, until I looked up the course schedule, and then airline schedules. Now, because we feel somewhat guilty about the timing of our move, which was a very self-indulgent move on our part that will allow my husband and I to remain at home with our children full-time (he working from home, me a SAHM), and we really weren’t putting much thought on how it might effect Au Pair, we feel like we should pay for the weekend course and her transportation to/from.

However, after some research, I found that either option will cost us nearly $1,200. Both options are going to require our Au Pair to take a red-eye from our nearest airport plus two more hops just to get there, then manage ground transportation on her own in a strange location (for CW Post, it’s the LIRR and then a shuttle; and in the SB case, if she’s lucky, we might be able to time her flight to catch the private shuttles that have been arranged by the teachers), and upon her return, she will get stuck at a West Coast airport overnight (either LAX, San Diego, Phoenix, or Salt Lake) before flying the remainder of the trip the following morning. As an alternative, we could put her up at a hotel near the school; either way, it means we now have to add the cost of a hotel room, ground transportation and food to the aforementioned fees, not to mention the fact that we won’t have an Au Pair from Wednesday night to Tuesday morning. I haven’t even told my Au Pair all this yet, because I know it will cause her a lot of apprehension and nervousness.

The Cultural Care representative told me that they don’t have weekend courses available on the West Coast, just these two locations in the Northeast. I haven’t been able to determine if these weekend courses that she suggested are specifically run by Cultural Care and, therefore, only available for their Au Pairs that they bring in to the US. I found a weekend Au Pair course at UCLA, which would be wayyyy easier for us to manage, but it alludes that these courses are only for Au Pairs from a different agency.


Would some of your readers experienced in this issue be able to let me know if these weekend courses are “Agency Specific”, and if they are, if they have had experience enrolling their Au Pairs into weekend classes that might not be through their agency?

Our Au Pair needs to fulfill her remaining 3 credit requirement by February 3rd, and due to pre-paid travel plans, that leaves us with one weekend in early December at CW Post as our only option right now. I guess another option would be to let Au Pair lose her deposit (not sure what it is in her country, but maybe we pay her back for it?), but then she can’t extend with another family or re-apply as an Au Pair for two years, and she has already indicated that she’d like to stay (with us, at least).

What do I do? Are there any options I’ve overlooked?


Hi TahoeTwinsMom –

Wow. I am really impressed by your efforts to track down all the possible options for your au pair’s education requirement. Many host moms would not have gone to such lengths on the au pair’s behalf, especially if she shows little interest in it herself. I understand that part of your reason for taking on this responsibility is that you feel responsible– your move put your au pair in a tough situation, requirement-wise. But still, many would have given up! good for you.

From what I see, you have two additional options to consider.

One option is to ask your au pair how much she really cares about extending or reapplying, and if she doesn’t care you can just ‘make her whole’ by covering the expense she’d incur by not filling this requirement.201010281747.jpg

Th e other option is to consider an online class. Doesn’t somewhere like Phoenix University or DeVry have economical online classes that she might take? Even though your au pair would not get out of the house and meet interesting people taking an online class, she might be able to fit it into her schedule easily.

I’d love to hear whether anyone has tried this strategy. And, I can’t wait to see what kinds of options other readers recommend…. Folks?

See also:

Can an Au Pair Manage Distance-Education and Au Pairing? If yes, then how?

Karyn Gartel Online Class
from marthaleverDistance Education from The Degree Experts


PA AP mom October 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Not sure about other agencies, but CCAP doesn’t allow “online” classes to fulfill the requirement. I asked why and they said the whole point is for the AP to interact with other students.

Just wanted to clarify.

Gianna October 29, 2010 at 12:31 pm

I’ve been asked by aupairs if they could skip the classes in exchange for cash and my
agency went ballistic when approached with this idea. I was told that it is in violation of federal regulations. Nevertheless, all of my aupairs have friends who have done this.
I’ve been told that one host mother composed a certificate online and printed it out.
I’ve been told that some college professors will sign the papers and don’t care if aupairs ever show up at all. I’ve been told that some LCCs cooperate with skirting educational requirements. My suggestion is that you write to your agency CEO and tell him/her exactly what you’ve told us. State that it will cause financial hardship to you and your aupair if forced to spend all of that money and ask them to waive the requirement for your family .

Heidi McGee October 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm

To respond to one of the questions asked: I have had au pairs take both the Silver Bay and CW Post classes over the years, and they are not agency-specific. Au pairs from any of the recognized agencies may participate.

Our current au pair who is very fitness-minded, decided to read a course of study to become a personal trainer and ordered some materials from International Sports Sciences Association. I asked our LCC if these independent studies could count toward the au pair’s educational requirement, and we just got word back that because this entity is considered a “fully accredited post secondary institution” the CEUs are totally valid and fulfill the program requirements for Cultural Care!

I share the foregoing, because you may be able to find other accredited institutions that offer independent courses of study in an area of interest to your au pair, and she could fulfill her program requirements in like fashion.

Good luck!

Anna October 29, 2010 at 12:43 pm

As far as I know there has been a recent rule change and online courses now don’t count for the education requirement.

Also don’t even mention school like DeVry – they are for-profit institutions, that have their own “accreditation” board different than for regular colleges; so I am not sure they would qualify as “accredited institutions” for the education requirement.

Another weekend course option that hasn’t been mentioned here yet are classes offered by Soujourner Douglass College in Maryland, Florida and Illinois locations (http://www.weekendprogram.org/) – that could give you more options to consider.

PA AP mom October 29, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Our last AP went to weekend courses at Soujourner Douglass College near BWI airport in Baltimore. She said the facilities were nice, the food was good, classes were informative, and she made lots of new AP friends there from across the agencies.

Host Mom in VA October 31, 2010 at 9:51 pm

DeVry University is fully accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (www.ncahlc.org), the same association that accredits many public and private colleges and universities in the midwestern part of the country. The University of Phoenix is also accredited by the HLC.

ANna October 31, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Ok, I stand corrected. This probably would be OK for the au pair agencies.
However their engineering degrees are not accredited by engineering accreditation boards… and going there for a real professional degree is not recommended. How do I know? My husband taught there… one class between jobs… never again.

Anna October 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Yes, I also want to add that all weekend courses I know of are not agency-specific; they are offered by colleges, not by agencies, and anyone can register, not only au pairs.

Dorsi October 29, 2010 at 1:38 pm

This isn’t helpful for the OP, but APIA has a hybrid online/community service course via UCLA extension, that exactly fulfills the requirements (and costs exactly $500 — what a coincidence). They are pushing it as a selling point of the agency, and I have to say I am hooked. I hate dealing with the local ComCollege and their poor selection of adult ed courses. I have also heard about the rules against online education, so I am not sure how this is kosher, but I suppose it must be — since it is in their printed materials, etc.

I don’t know what CC exact rules are, but I know other agencies will take 10 hours in lieu of 1 credit. Is it possible to find some all day Saturday classes (our ComCollege has things like, bread baking and such) that she could do 4 of and fulfill her hours? Maybe she could carpool into Sacramento/SF for an overnight to do these with another AP?

I think the education requirement is a tremendous weak point of the AP program. There are expectations set up in the Au Pairs that are nearly impossible to fulfill. In my experience, it is not realistic for APs to take “real” classes (literature, etc) – due to college entrance requirements, visa issues, scheduling and (most of all) cost. The community ed classes are constantly being shrunk (in my area) and being replaced with online tutorials. Even those are fairly expensive — there is no way you can do 60 hours, transportation and materials for under $500. Other similar classes, offered outside of colleges (via the YMCA, art studios) are not allowed. I find it irritating that the Wilson cake decorating class offered by my local community college (at a time only convenient for retired folks) is a legitimate course, but the Wilson cake decorating class offered by Jo-Anne’s Fabric store can’t count towards the required hours.


Au Pair in CO October 30, 2010 at 2:14 pm

My agency’s rules states that I need either 6 credits or 72 hours (1 credit needs to be at least 12h). Not sure how that is with other agencies..

trina October 29, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Dorsi is correct regarding the information above and the UCLA extension course. I will say this without revealing specific agencies – one agency (a major one) allowed my AP to complete that same course even though we weren’t with APIA by getting permission from the agency home office for her to participate. I am now with another (also major) agency that will *not* allow my current AP this substitution.

The reason that the UCLA extension course is a legal work-around to the regulations is because it’s a pilot program (theoretically temporary, though the program is in its 4th year, I think) with the federal group that oversees the AP program. And yes, typically online courses are a violation of those federal rules, but because of 1) the pilot status of the course and 2) the community service component, the UCLA program is an exception. The AP I had that completed the UCLA course really enjoyed it, and actually *did* meet people through her online participation. In fact, she completed her community service component with someone she met online through the program.

Our solution with my current AP is to go through our local adult school, which is accredited as a post-secondary education program. It’s steps away at our local high school and is significantly cheaper than most of the options I’ve seen described here (we live in the Los Angeles area). Make sure you check out the accreditation database yourself – don’t rely on your LCC/coordinator to know which programs are eligible. In our case – neither of the agencies we went through knew about the adult education program, so you may have to do the research yourself! Here’s the link:


Should be working October 29, 2010 at 3:54 pm

This won’t help the original poster, who is on a short time frame, but our AP got permission from an instructor of a class she liked at our nearby state university, attended class, did a presentation, and got a letter from the instructor that she had “successfully participated” in the class. The 3 credits for the class were counted. It doesn’t seem to matter that there was no grade; the letter on university stationary was adequate.

Anna October 29, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Actually, this could help!

“Auditing” a class (i.e. taking it without being graded, just “fail” or “pass” option) often costs much less than taking it for a letter grade, but still might count towards the education requirement for the au pair program. Something worth looking into.

MommyMia October 29, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Do your research first, though, because in California, because of the state budget crisis, nearly all community colleges and public universities do NOT offer auditing – they want all they can get for every credit hour, and don’t even get me started on J-1 visa holders not being exempt from the international student designation, meaning they also have to pay an additional upcharge for every credit, plus a non-resident “facilities use fee.” Wish the legislators would focus some energy & attention on changing this, and wish the overpriced agency that we just left would have done something productive to assist our four au pairs!

Au Pair in CO October 30, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Most schools who offer auditing here in Colorado make you pay normal out of state-tuition for the first 3 credits worth of auditing, which means you still end up paying close to $3,000. So for an au pair who only needs 6 credits, it’s so not worth it..

CO Host Mom November 2, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Just an FYI…Metro College in Denver allows auditing of classes at their extended campus locations – one is in the DTC. The fee to audit a class is $80 a credit hour with no additional fees added to that. My current AP (along with at least one other AP) are currently enrolled in an Interpersonal Communications course through that program.

Au Pair in CO November 4, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Aww, of course I find out about this three months before completing my year..:P I’ll be sure to pass the advice on to my host parents though, so their next au pair won’t have to do the same intense amount of research I’ve been doing.

AuPairFromReno October 29, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I would suggest finding out who goes to TMCC or WNCC (depending on which part of Tahoe you are in) who lives in your area. Try to find out ways for her to ride share. Even if she takes a class at UNR and finds someone to carpool in with from Tahoe, it wouldn’t be as expensive as the private college up in your parts. When I was an undergrad at UNR, a ton of people drove in from Incline or Tahoe or Truckee. It is largely a commuter school. If you can think of a way to find someone she can ride in with, getting there could be easy.

Also, she’ll probably qualify for the good neighbor tuition discount at the NV colleges.

Good luck!

AuPairFromReno October 29, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Oh and TMCC and WNCC and UNR totally have distance ed. she will just need to come in to take the final (and maybe the midterm) depending on the class.

Dorsi October 29, 2010 at 5:48 pm

This is what is difficult – and I didn’t understand (and I think the state department still doesn’t understand): Au Pairs are not residents and cannot pay resident tuition (at least in my experience). When we got our first AP, I thought the community college down the road would be perfect.

From UNR’s website (which states that it provides some of the most affordable education in America): $168 per credit + $157 for non-residents. $1950 for six credits. It looks like there are another (at least) $100 in fees per semester that a part time student would have to pay.

And, distance learning doesn’t count.

AuPairFromReno October 30, 2010 at 9:16 am

Well that is some pretty cheap tuition and it was the reason I chose to go to UNR versus the private universities which accepted me. TMCC is another option, but a little further away. However the do also have a satellite campus on the Mt. Rose Hwy (Redfield) and a campus closer to the Meadowood Mall, so you don’t really need to go to the main campus for classes if you can avoid it.

Amy October 29, 2010 at 6:08 pm

The State Department does NOT allow au pairs to take hybrid or online courses. Because this is a State Dept. regulation, I assume it must be followed by all au pairs regardless of agency.

JJ Host Mom October 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm

AuPairCare has a program through Intrax, their sister company, to provide weekend-long ESL classes. They have classes in SF. I don’t see the exact program listed on their page (or know whether it’s available to au pairs in other agencies) but you could call them.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 29, 2010 at 10:34 pm

My guess is how your local community college interprets the regulations depends on how many APs are in your area (and how likely they are to benefit). Our local CC does interpret APs to be local residents because they are employed by resident HFs, therefore we pay in-county tuition rates for our APs. (Nevertheless, in the 9 1/2 years we’ve been hosting, the $500 fee has not changed, but the tuition has – when we began hosting it covered tuition and books, now it doesn’t even cover all of the tuition. Occasionally, when an AP has gone the extra mile, so do we.)

The bottom line – what does your AP want to get out of the courses. If she really wants to perfect her English, then enrolling in an ESOL class makes the most sense. Does she want to stay in the US, then enrolling in a CC makes the most sense. If she’s not feeling particularly pushed, then anything that meets the regulations makes sense.

Our current AP is doing a program with APIA that meets for 6 hours over three or four weekend days, and then is a full two-day weekend in Manhattan, that magically becomes 4.5 CEUs. While it seems like sleight of hand to me, her English is good enough, she spends many mealtimes with us, she has been attending a free conversation class through our local library, and she has borrowed English grammar books from the Library. She is motivated enough, has a good enough ear, and while in my opinion, while she’d thoroughly benefit from an ESOL class, she’ll do fine without one.

I have had friends enroll their APs in ESOL programs because their English wasn’t up to snuff, but I live in a major city where there are year-round rolling admission programs available.

However, in my opinion, whatever APIA or another agency can do, so can you. Build a case with your LCC for an online course, press your agency’s administration to accept it. Bottom line – it should matter to them – they’re not making money on your AP’s college tuition. They are making money on your continued participation in your program. So, if they want your money, they’ll accept what APIA or any other agency accepts.

Anon Mom October 30, 2010 at 7:10 am

I have experienced your stress regarding this issue. NY does not allow au pairs to pay in state tuition and has even now slapped on an “international student fee” raising the cost of 6 credit hours at our local community college to well over $2,000. I have whined about this all the way up to the Dean of admissions to no avail. There is no getting around it. We have found a professor who (out of love of education and willingness to help) allowed an au pair to audit a class for free (after paying for a first class at $1200).

We were happy to find the College of St Rose class at Silver Bay which you have already found. Our au pair had a great time and there were over 100 au pairs there from as far away as California! Maybe you can find a cheap flight to Albany and from there she can carpool with someone heading through Albany. The college sends out a list of all partcipants ahead of time complete with contact information, so I am sure there would be someone she could ride up with.

From what I have experienced the course certificates allow the au pair to receive their deposit when they return home (which is $500 I think) and is required to file for extension. If your au pair doesn’t want to extend it may not matter. I know of some host families who pay the au pair the $500 up front and tell them to do what they want about it. This is not following the State Department guidelines, and I am NOT suggesting that you do this, but nothing bad will happen to you or your aupair if you do.

As a side note, the au pair agencies use the student visa for au pair visas out of lack of any other option. Perhaps we could all petition our representatives in Washington to create specific au pair visa that wouldn’t require college course work (which is a sham at best) and would allow community volunteer hours instead.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 30, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Au Pairs are not on a student visa. They are on a cultural exchange visa here in the United States, which the State Dept. interprets as requiring a certain amount of college education. When we first started hosting it was literally translated as 6 credits or 80 hours of classroom time (some classes have lab time, which helped). Now, APIA, at least, has a more fast and loose interpretation, which means that APs in urban areas have far more flexibility in achieving the State Dept. goal.

Having put an AP on a student visa, believe me, only the heartiest of APs can stand it (it requires 12 college credits per semester, which is hard to do if you’re working 45 hours per week).

CO Host Mom October 30, 2010 at 10:08 am

Oh this is such a hot topic for me! I’m both a HM and LCC, and in our area of Colorado, it is a nightmare trying to find classes. I was previously a HM with APC, and they would not let a former AP of mine take the weekend class. I was told by both our APC LCC and corporate that the educational requirement must be fulfilled “locally” and that they would not sign off on our AP flying to the East Coast to attend a weekend class.

Currently, I have a few APs taking GED and ESL classes through a community program through the local community college. Unfortunately, there are no classes of substance – just GED and ESL, but it is fulfilling the purpose.

My own AP is driving 90 minutes to our nearest metro area where she is auditing a class at a college there. This has worked out fine as the classes are all day on Saturday for six weeks.

Something needs to be done by the State Department to address this problem. Over and over again this comes up. It is frustrating, and for many APs and families, a complete waste of money. My host families are spending money for there AP to attend a GED or ESL class that is worthless to them, just to fulfill the requirements of the program, when the AP could be much better served completing an online class within their field of interest.

Au Pair in CO October 30, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I don’t know where in Colorado you live, but in the Denver/Boulder area there is a ton of different community colleges that offer cheap Continuing Education classes. I have taken everything from normal ESL to “Learn to Play Guitar in a Day” (which got me 8h for $25!). For me the only problem has been to find classes that only go on weekends, since my schedule makes it hard to take evening classes, but there’s definitely classes out there:)

CO Host Mom November 2, 2010 at 10:31 pm

We are in Colorado Springs, so attending classes in Denver and Boulder is difficult for most of my APs since you are adding in over an hour’s drive, which can be doubled in winter driving conditions coming over Monument Hill.

Deb Schwarz October 30, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Don’t get me started on this! The State Dept. makes the rules – and life was good until host parents and various and asundry other entities got in the way. For instance, in the past, SunTrek and Trek America one week van trips to National Parks across the country counted – and our au pairs LOVED them. They cost $500 and fulfilled the entire 6 credits. It was educational and fun – and showed au pairs the U.S. at the same time. Then (can you hear my blood boiling?) some idiot, efficious host dad saw a brochure that showed a bikini clad au pair and decided to make an issue with the State Dept. whom then decided that everything has to be in a classroom. Lovely! It was blown up and I still mourn the loss of this truly amazing and educational option.

Then 3 years ago, Cultural Care spent a year developing very well thought out weekend cultural classes in 6 cities. Our au pairs went to them and LOVED them. Then – BAM! – a competitive agency reported them to the State Dept. as not being compliant (yeah right!) – and they were blown up. I heard that the other agency options are also being challenged, including Intrax. Any time the State Dept. is alerted (this is almost always by a host parent or agency), they like to close things down (must be in their blood).

The issue is with the State Dept. (and to some degree with agencies that are vying with each other re: gaining competitive advantage). The State Dept. nixes one option, the agencies scramble to offer options, and then they are blown up. At one point, volunteering and online classes counted – now they don’t.

What LCCs across the country have done is to seek out weekend options through local colleges. For instance, Evergreen College in San Jose has two (I’ll send you the link) – and I’ve heard that there is one in Baltimore that someone mentioned above). An LCC from Cultural Care opened up Silver Bay (which I heard is fantastic, camplike experience). I have also instructed my au pairs not to mention that they aren’t residents (how will the college know?) to see if they can get the discounted rate. What I have advised au pairs to do that are scrambling to extend is to fly to NY and get the 6 credits in one week (either two CW Post classes and one Silver Bay and one CW Post). It’s a pain in the butt, but at this point in time, about the only option – unless you find local weekend options. If your au pair doesn’t want to extend, then I’d advise that you quietly (don’t mention it to your LCC as it’s a State Dept. rule to take classes) abstain from stressing about it and help with her deposit. Or find an au pair that is going to the Reno classes that someone above mentioned so she can carpool with her.

Now – I think you should start thinking about skiing instead of stressing about this….while you still have your au pair.

Amelie ex-aupair October 31, 2010 at 10:13 am

I know a girl that had a student visa denied after she finished her au pair year because she didn’t fulfill the educational component of the au pair program. I don’t know if they would do the same if she were applying for other types of visa, like a turist visa, but I wouldn’t risk it.

So the au pair might have more to lose than the deposit. =(

TahoeTwinsMom October 30, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I finally did figure out a course that would not require our Au Pair to be gone nearly a week for a two-day weekend course, and the total out of pocket cost for us would be around $1000. It’s the weekend course at Soujourner Douglass in Baltimore, and they start the program at 9am on Saturday, finishing at 6pm Sunday. She can even make it home late Sunday night if she makes her flight on time. 4 CEU’s. $314.80 for the class, another $378 for the Southwest flight, lots of weekends available to fulfill her requirement by the February 1st deadline. Thanks for all of the options and advise. Educational Requirements seems to be one of those hot buttons. There were lots of good suggestions, but almost all of them pertained to au pairs who 1) have transportation – which she doesn’t, 2) live near civilization – which we do not :) , and 3) have other au pairs neaby who could drive her – which we do not either.

Intrax no longer offers an au pair program in San Francisco. I believe the UCLA program is agency specific, and not our agency. Evergreen’s program seems amazing but you really have to sign up early, and had we known that soon, we would have been able to get her into a class at the college nearby.

It’s shocking how limited the choices are, especially for those on the West Coast.

Thanks for the help!

No skiing yet, Deb. But we should have snow later tonight here at the lake. And me with only high heel sandals… Crazy!

Deb Schwarz November 2, 2010 at 3:33 am

Glad to hear that you sorted it out, thanks to the sage collective wisdom on this site.

Another LCC and I, in a moment of complete craziness, talked about developing a Silver Bay-like weekends with a local university a few years ago. Maybe you can help scout out a spot in Tahoe? (just kidding – like we all have the time!!). Given your post, I did contact someone at College of Marin about developing a weekend course (like the one in Baltimore), pointing out that it would be a BIG seller. Hopefully that will yield something useful.

I suspect that with time (and perhaps some lobbying?), the State Dept. will come to their senses and approve the Trek tours (my dream) again and the agencies will stop back stabbing and sabotaging each others’ weekend classes. Hope springs eternal.

California Cowgirl November 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm

We’re just wrapping up with our 5th au pair and she’s sitting through ESL classes a the local adult school to get in her required hours. She’s not learning a darn thing.

After 5 au pairs, we have yet to have a single one that had an interest in taking classes.

I do so wish that the requirement could be met through some sort of structured community service. Something such as volunteering a the local food back, habbitat for humanity, or animal shelter. Or even working at the local schools. For kids without an interest in school, this would at least expose them to something more, and perhaps prompt some thoughts about the importance of education.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 1, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Your experience is very different from mine. Every AP (so far) has taken at least one ESOL class at our local community college (and two recommended it because it was far superior to the ESOL class they had taken at a local language-only school). Most of my APs have taken more than the minimum requirement – but then 2/3 were seriously considering permanently residing in the US (only one of the 6 has).

APIA used to have a volunteer component for APs who did not want to take classes (my APs fresh out of high school exams have been initially the most resistant to further study), but it was scratched a couple of years ago. The APs that I know who took advantage of the program did not seem to take it seriously, and I don’t think they were offered a lot of support in selecting a volunteer program or in completing it.

All of my APs put a fair amount of their own money into their education (which probably affected their decision to take it seriously). Several of my APs volunteered regularly, but not consistently to a particular program. Our LCC encourages “giving back” and organizes several volunteer activities for the APs in our cluster each year.

Deb Schwarz November 2, 2010 at 3:37 am

Cal Cowgirl,

Volunteering, in days of old (4 or so years ago), did count toward the requirement, but this option was taken away by the State Dept. at the same time as the Trek tours and online classes – leaving basket-weaving and boring classes like your au pairs have had to endure on the “approved list”. It’s a darned shame.

Trina November 1, 2010 at 1:24 pm

hi all – i’ve noticed a few comments have been left since mine and i just want to reiterate two points:

* yes, the state dept will allow an online course. the UCLA extension course, because of its pilot status and community service component, is an exception to the usual ‘no, you can’t do that rule.’ i know this because i had an AP complete this course a few months ago.

* no, you don’t have to be with APIA to do the course. my AP that took the online course was not from APIA. but…your agency needs to be willing to accept completion of the course as a suitable fulfillment of the state requirements.

based on a comment i read above relative to disgruntled parents and/or agencies calling in and scuttling these types of programs, i suppose everything i’ve written here is immanently subject to change! :-(

HRHM November 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm

I have to say, the easiest time we had was in central PA. Bloomsburg university would let APs “sit-in” (not audit) classes for $25 and they could take anything they wanted. Our AP at the time took an English course about language and perception and also geography. Down the road in the next town, Bucknell University (which by the way is one of the most expensive schools in the country) did the same for $125 per course (not credit). They just gave the AP a letter at the end stating that she had satisfied the requirements of the course. Ironically, you can no longer have an AP in that area, since none of the agencies are supporting an LCC/AD within one hour, the nearsest is state college.
In VA, we are having a miserable time getting the local university to let our AP take anything besides ESL (which she doesn’t need!). It’s obvious just speaking with her that she would do fine in a more complex course (composition, art history, etc) but they won’t let her take it. :( And even if they would, it would cost a small fortune. Same story at our local CC as well. Very frustrating for both her and us.

KM November 1, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Driving and Education – the two biggies on my list.

Several years ago, the Department of State issued a cease and desist to agencies who encouraged au pairs to attend travel ed classes (TrekAmerica or SunTrek Tours). The classes were offered through Sonoma State College in California. It seems the travel agencies offered LCCs a commission for every au pair who signed up. Well, I guess some LCCs were quite enthusiastic in their marketing efforts and often did not disclose the full expense to their au pairs and host families. The result was numerous au pairs were nearing the end of their programs when they realized the $495 tuition did not cover the entire program. Au pairs were unable to complete their education requirements because they did not have the funds to pay for the trips. Some au pairs were issued invoices for up to $1800. Au pairs were earning less than $140 a week. Those who planned the trips a couple of months prior to the end of their year lost their security deposits because they were unable to complete the education requirements. The Department of State received numerous complaints about “bait and switch” tactics from au pairs and host families.

I believe this was one of the reasons this program was evaluated and eventually shut down. Personally, it was another option which some of our au pairs enjoyed. But others said it was too expensive. We sat down with our au pairs to outline all the expenses. We often found they were confused between the tuition and the travel segments. The marketing materials often blurred the two.

Deb Schwarz November 2, 2010 at 3:48 am


It was a picture of a bikini clad au pair brochure (and promises of “fun in the sun” in FL) that a host family sent to the State Dept. that shut down the Trek tours. Don’t get me started as these, IMO, were the BEST educational option (besides English classes) for au pairs. I still mourn the day they were taken away. I had many au pairs that took them (including 5 of our own): they saw the U.S., learned about U.S. geography, history, and culture (and had fun along the way). They had to write a journal and didn’t pass unless it was well written and legitimate (one of my au pairs’ had to re-write hers). They ended up costing between $550 and $650 for the entire 6 credits and took a week.

Mom23 November 1, 2010 at 5:14 pm

One of my first au pair was able to fulfill some of her requirements volunteering at my kids school and at a neighborhood 10K. She met a ton of people and it was a great cultural experience for her. She said that it was not common in her country for people to do volunteer work. She also took a class at the University (that pretty much exhausted her entire educational allowance). I wish they would allow au pairs to volunteer again. I think it is a great opportunity to learn about the community in which they are living.

A Host Mom November 1, 2010 at 7:26 pm

If you are anywhere near NYC, BMCC offers a great course for au pairs. It involves taking an all-day class on a weekend day for about 3-4 weeks and there is a trip at the end. For example, the classes will teach about Boston and, at the end of the course, the class takes a weekend trip to Boston. Each course satisfies 45 hours classroom hours, has a weekend excursion, and only costs between $200-$300 a course.

HRHM November 2, 2010 at 2:45 am

Another option on the eastern seaboard is University of Richmond. They have fairly frequent weekend courses targeted for APs.


maleaupairmommy November 2, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Does anyone know of anything on the Wast Coast it seems to be all East Coast and of course our agency has done nothing helpfully in finding something like that on the West Coast as the majority of their business on East Coast. I feel like the neglected step child LOL

Kathy Korman Frey November 8, 2010 at 3:53 pm

This is fascinating! I am a host mom, and on the faculty at the George Washington University School of Business (entrepreneurship center) teaching Women’s Entrepreneurship. We’re right down the street from the State Department. I started a women & business class down here for APs/cultural exchange students as a community service. It was a big hit, and well within their budget. The girls have an increase of 150% in entrepreneurial self confidence and take that back to their host families, and their countries. This class has been shared with APs by multiple agencies. Maybe because of this, and because the “normal” GW class I teach is the winner of a national award, there have been requests from all over the country. So, I am going to be speaking with our agency, and the State Department, about the viability of a “business camp” wherein APs come in for a day of class, and take the rest of the classes virtually. This is based on a proven, effective model of virtual learning that I’ve been researching for about eight years. I’ll post here if the “business camp” class format is a “go.” Thoughts welcomed!

EurAuPair in Atlanta November 16, 2010 at 1:25 am


Please keep me updated! I’d love to send some of our girls your way!


Kathy Korman Frey January 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm


Until the State Department moves on hybrid courses, I suggest Au Pairs outside of the DC area get on the wait list (and read about the class) here: http://www.sis-U.net. There is a place for host parent information so they can stay updated as well, and we’re adding a director category since you all are the “hub” of everything.

So, I’m here in DC and am trying to get a meeting with the State Department to introduce the Women’s Leadership courses and the merits of offering it – period – and especially hybrid which would open it up nation-wide. The would enable students to come into a day-long intensive for my women’s leadership class, and do the rest virtually (uploading presentations to YouTube, group assignments and meetings via Skype, etc.). I would be shocked if State didn’t allow SOME hybrid, as so many universities do this now and it is a real part of the evolving college experience.

Meg February 8, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Hi Everyone.
I am currently an aupair and have battled to find time to do my last three credits, the deposit isn’t such a huge issue for me, but what i’m afraid of is the long term effects, like will i have a difficult time gaining a Travel Visa in the future? And i have also heard that I will have to pay for my flight back home. These credits are a pain in the neck! Seriously, when aupairs have a busy weekend schedule, it is difficult to get the time to go to these courses and make sure that it suits your host families schedule. Your job as an aupair is supposed to come first isnt it?

Taking a Computer Lunch February 8, 2011 at 10:10 pm

If you are an AP in the US, fulfilling your education requirements is part of the bargain. It’s not onerous, but it has to be done. What your post does not make clear is: 1) whether you work 45 hours a week and don’t have time during the day/evening/weekend to fulfill your requirements, 2) whether your HF is actively preventing you from fulfilling your requirements or whether it’s your desire to party when you’re not working. In a 51-week year, the fact that you have to spend a mere 75 hours in a classroom is nothing (and the fact that your HF must pay $500 of that cost to boot!).

You don’t say how much time you have left, but given the sense of panic you convey, my guess it isn’t long. There are plenty of organizations that offer junky courses that will fulfill your requirements in a couple of weekends if that’s what you need. Ask your LCC.

What I tell my APs is – I’m not paying them to study. That being said, I do my best to work around a class schedule (which is why I work 6:30-3:00). As an AP, you must meet your HF halfway. If evening classes don’t work for you, and daytime classes aren’t an option, then say goodbye to a couple of weekends already.

I must say, as a HP, I’d much rather have an AP study English at a local community college, then waste my money taking a nothing class for a weekend. I realize that most APs come from countries where a university education is offered for nearly nothing (but only to a relatively small number of qualified applicants) – and they are shocked by the expense in the US.

Personally, I’ve learned to tell my APs to invest in themselves – take a class that costs a few dollars and is an investment in time & energy, but offers you a real leg up when you return home rather than a nonsensical class that is no long-term investment in you as a person.

As a HP, if my AP’s English is up to par, then I won’t give her too much grief in her choice of classes, but for those who struggle to convey ideas – I mandate an English class and adjust my schedule to accommodate it.

Meg February 8, 2011 at 11:34 pm

most weeks I do work the full 45 hours. To be honest at the end of a full day with my host kids, i feel too exhausted to still go sit in a class for 2hours. So far I have loved my experience in the USA, and I have loved the things I have learnt looking after my host kids and being part of another family, but the credits issue really is a pain. I’m leaving in a month, and the only course that i could get that would fit in with my schedule is on a weekend that is fully booked. Also the classes that are offered at our local college are really mundane that would not benefit me in anyway, which is why i chose to do the weekend courses offered, but there is not much choice when it comes to that either, only being offered once a month. Taking an English class when English is my mother tongue just seemed like a waste of time and money. Not that I am not glad for the opportunity to do something, the options in my area are just very limited. I knew that the education component was apart of the program before coming over to the US and was fully prepared to complete them, i just didnt think that getting the credits would be so stressful and I didnt think my year would fly by so quickly.

HRHM February 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Yes, unfortunately, if you wait until the last minute then find that classes are full (or cancelled, etc) you can end up not getting your credits. Depending on your contract and your agency, you may end up paying for your own flight home and losing any deposit you have coming. This failure to complete the requirements also makes it impossible to extend or return for a second time as an AP. I always encourage my APs to get their classes over with early in the year, but ultimately it is their responsibility to see that it gets done.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I’m sorry, you’ll get no sympathy from me. I work 40 hours a week, then come home and take care of my kids and cook dinner. In the past 8 years I’ve studied both Spanish and German to get a reading knowledge of the languages, which means intensive study after my kids go to bed.

If English is your native language, then the world was your oyster. Unlike the majority of APs in this country who are closed out from classes that interest them because they must meet the ESOL (English as a second language) requirements before they are able to proceed, you could have studied absolutely anything – music, art, photography, child development, English literature, another language, science, and you blew it.

You might as well confess to your LCC now and see if she can help you salvage whatever you might lose by not fulfilling your visa requirements.

Steff February 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm

You touched exactly one point I’ve thought over and over since this whole APing thingy happened to me; I actually do look forward to have the chance to “study” in the US and learn too how different that part of your culture is from mine, but then again, when I looked into the classes teach at the possible college I’d go when I get to my host family, all the “cool” classes have pre-requisites, that more often than not, are like ENGL0020, 1020, 2020, and on and on…I often wonder (and hope) there is a way to skip those “prerequisites”…Honestly, it really would suck a little if all I could study there is English too (though in my case English is not my mother language, but still….)

cv harquail February 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm

Steff, one specific thing you can consider is contacting the school and/or instructor involved to see if they would waive the pre-requisite (especially if you took the class pass/ fail or something). You could offer the tradeoff of a well-prepared and enthusiastic international perspective! cv

Taking a Computer Lunch February 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Another option is to take the TOEFL or equivalent test before you arrive, which permits you to skip the ESL requirements. Before investing in the TOEFL, take a practice test to see if it is likely that you would pass!

Your LCC should have a list of accredited programs when you arrive, so that you understand your choices. There are a lot of weekend “culture” programs which meet the visa requirements and fall within the $500. Personally, I think they’re very expensive for the little culture they teach (how much can you possibly learn in a few weekends?). I do understand that not everyone is going to use English when they return home (although I did have one AP who had wished she had taken the TOEFL here so she could have opted out of a foreign language when she went to university back home).

I don’t think the AP agencies are very honest about the types of courses APs are able to take (unless they are absolutely fluent in English)!

Steff February 9, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Thank you both so much for the feedback! As of right now, I’m strongly considering taking the TOEFL exam before departing (until July, I got plenty of time thankfully)
As part of my current bachelor’s degree I do *have* to take the exam some time, so I might as well do it now (already downloaded practice exams and signed up in the official site). I really hope that’ll help me “skip” the ESL requirements. Will also seek advice with my hostfamily; since applications for the college I’d go (the one their current AP is going/went) can be done online, perhaps I can do some of the job here in my home-country, talking to people and informing myself in ways I could “fill” the requirements beforehand…

And it really is not as if getting English will be a complete waste, it would not be at all, but I don’t know…I really do think the best way I’d improve my English (in my case, grammar and overcome those darn nerves you get when speaking in a foreign language you’d only speak when inside of a classroom) is talking and listening and talking and talking some more in the States where English is everywhere 24/7…in a classroom just doesn’t sound as appealing as a 3credits leadership course (that one seems awesome in the university I looked up) does look like…

Hopefully I’ll make it work anyway! Thanks so much for the advice, and as for now, the TOEFL exam will be my next step to help-out myself a little bit too heehee ;) Thanks!

Anon-former-aupair February 10, 2011 at 8:37 am

When I was an AuPair in 2007/08, I went to a community college to meet the education requirement (although I had to pay about $250 myself on top of the hostfamily’s $500). All international students had to take an English test at a computer (they tested grammar, listening and writing skills). I was lucky that I had a top score and the college allowed me to take any class I wanted without having to take EFL classes first. My course also had a prerequisite but it was waived for me without even having to ask. Just e-mail the college where you’d go and ask them. They usually have an office for international students and if you come to an area with many AuPairs, they are also used to teaching APs (mine was).

Dorsi February 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I live in an area where it is quite difficult to get the education requirements done — few classes (all of our community ed classes have gone to an online model), ESL classes that won’t take J-1 visas, Community college credits for $400/credit for “international students,” among other difficulties. I find it one of the very frustrating aspects of the Au Pair program — I get the spirit, but there is no way to execute it where I live.

Having said that, APC does not make you pay your way home if you haven’t done your education. It is true you can’t extend. I highly doubt you would have any problems with future visas to the U.S., but that is more a country of origin problem than and AP.

MommyMia February 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm

I must live in the same area, Dorsi, as that exactly mirrors my experience. We had to get really creative and inventive (as our former LCC did absolutely nothing to assist the unfortunate au pairs who arrived thinking US college courses would be stimulating and enlightening!). And APIA also did not make our last AP pay her way home when she was only able to complete half the required hours, not for lack of trying. It’s really ludicrous that APs who already have university degrees in their home countries end up in rinky-dink community college courses (often the night and weekend classes are the only ones they can fit into their schedules, unless I really bend over backwards and give them them “my” precious daytime hours off. But I’m still sticking with English as their native language, older than 21 au pairs, despite the inherent difficulties with the education requirement!

Kara Parmelee February 9, 2011 at 5:33 pm

I do actually have sympathy for the au pairs on this front–not with respect to waiting until it’s too late to take a class, but rather regarding the availability, diversity and affordability of classes. I live in DC (a place you would think would have a lot of options), and virtually the only classes that are truly affordable are English classes. This is fine for those au pairs whose English needs improvment, but leaves a lot to be desired for those whose English is excellent. When we first entered the program in 2000, many of our au pairs took wonderful community center courses from marketing to ballet to Spanish to Chinese brush painting. Some of them undertook serious volunteer work–for example at a hospital, with the art teacher at my kids’ school, and at a suicide hotline. They met lots of people (including many Americans!), learned new and interesting things and the classes were very inexpensive (and of course volunteering was free). These types of arrangements also permitted them to get experiences in fields they hoped to enter in their home countries. To me, these opportunities fulfilled the intent of the State Department’s educational goals perfectly. But when the rules changed such that only classes from accredited secondary schools met the requirement, our au pairs’ experiences really suffered. They usually can’t afford to take even a single class in a subject of interest, and even if they can come up with the money, one class usually only fulfills about 20% of the required hours. Every year I write a letter to our program about this issue, but little changes. I do appreciate that APIA now has an online course to fulfill the requirement for $500, but it’s ridiculous to think they are getting more out of this than they would at a community center. The au pairs don’t meet other students this way, and online learning does not foster a sense of academic community. I wish the programs would do more to lobby the State Department in this regard, and recognize the disservice they are doing to the au pairs by limiting them to prohibitive and paltry education choices.

Dorsi February 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm


MommyMia February 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Ditto – I should have read all the way down before I replied to Dorsi!

Taking a Computer Lunch February 9, 2011 at 10:17 pm

I leave in the Metro DC area and there are a plethera of inexpensive options, many of which fall near the $500 cut off (although quite frankly, that cut off hasn’t changed one penny in the 10 years I’ve had APs even though education expenses have).

What is hard, as a HP, is making time in the schedule to help the AP avail herself of those opportunities (one reason I started working 6:30-3:00).

And yes, even though I consider my down time precious, I consider education really important and willing to make meeting the State Dept. goals a priority in my family’s life (I just expect my AP will study during the 6 hours my kids are in school every day).

CCDC Mom February 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I would be very interested in hearing about where you find such a plethora of inexpensive opportunities in DC (note that as we live in the District our au pairs are ineligible for the discounts afforded MD and VA au pairs in institutions such as NOVA CC and Montgomery College). I would not call Georgetown’s or AU’s courses affordable, especially given the price charged per credit (and the fact that only English courses are discounted). The GSDA has courses, but again aren’t inexpensive and the times are often very difficult to fit in, especially given the 1 hour commute each way. Corcoran, ditto. UDC requires all foreign students to enroll in the college, and one class with fees and other required costs runs about $1400 (and would not by itself fulfill the requirement). Aside from the online course and the weekend courses in Maryland, only LADO or the Language Institute really make sense from a cost and time perspective.

I too consider education to be important (and would guess that other HP do as well), but I fail to understand why the educational opportunities have been so curtailed for the au pairs compared to how they used to be. My au pairs’ experiences prior to the tightening of policy were more varied and interesting, more relevant to their goals and last, but certainly not least, much more cheaply obtained. They also met many more non-au pairs, which I think was a great way of enriching their stay. When these wonderful opportunities still exist (and they don’t require a ridiculous amount of extra time for time-strapped HP to find and schedule with their APs), I think it does au apairs and HPs a grave disservice not to accept them.

Dorsi February 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I am surprised that you don’t have a CC with non-credit courses that can fulfill the requirement in a metro area the size of D.C. I am a frequent complainer about the education requirement and think that there is a great mismatch in expectations and execution. However, most communities have yoga, painting, Intro Spanish, etc. at their CC (usually called Adult Ed, Community Ed, Continuing Ed) that can be had for relatively cheap (a 8 x 3hr painting class here runs around $120 of $5/hr). I believe all of the agencies will accept non-credit classes as long as they complete 60-72 hours.

We recently moved, so we have lots of great options. The city we used to be in had changed almost all of its non-credit courses to web based, which had really left us in a bind.

CCDC Mom February 17, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Plenty of Community Centers with courses and prices like those you list. But the Centers are not accredited and therefore my LC informs me that courses taken there will not count (this is exactly my lament as they used to be accepted). We also have plenty of Universities, but no Community Colleges. The MD and VA suburbs do, but they charge DC au pairs out of state tuition, which means an introduction to drawing class will cost an au pair $430 plus the cost of supplies and only get her 5 out of the required 72 credit hours. At our local community center, she could take the same class for $85 and get 18 credit hours. The community center is 3 minutes away (closest Community College is at least 35 minutes), and classes are offered at a variety of times and days. Pretty significant difference.

Dorsi February 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm

By CC I meant Community College — a shame you don’t have any of those close by. It is ridiculous you can’t have the Community Centers count — but I think that is a rule across agencies.

In my experience (but I don’t live in an area that has very close borders to other states) the Adult Ed programs are self-supporting and don’t require college enrollment or verification of residency status. My APs can’t get in-state tuition locally anyway, because they haven’t been here long enough, or with the intent of establishing permanent residence.

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