RACHEL HERMAN: Hi, my name is Rachel Herman, and I am the Director of the Intensive English Program at the University of Central Missouri.

I'd like to talk about researching your choices for choosing an IEP. Of course, you need to think about your goals, as was mentioned, and your needs. Is the location going to be right for you? Our university is located in a rural area, kind of countryside. And a lot of students think that they need a city location, or a big town, so they have lots of entertainment choices. But if your goals are to complete your academic studies in a timely manner, maybe something smaller, that helps you focus on our studies, would be good for you.

Cost is, of course, very important for almost every student. And some of the Midwestern schools, and some of the other not-so-famous regional schools, are going to be a much more affordable choice for a lot of students. A high quality program is very important. And one of the ways to look for a high quality program is to look for their accreditation.

You also need to think about your level of English and what they offer. Some programs offer from a zero level, total beginner in English, to an advanced level. And others look for students who have some studies of English, maybe an intermediate level of English, and then to an advanced level.

You also need to think about your timeline. Many of the students who come to our program say they're in a hurry. They need to finish their English quickly before they move into an academic program. Or, if their goals are professional, they only have a limited amount of time to stay in the US and improve their English. So you really need to think about your timeline. And if the place that you are going to choose, the institution you are going to work with, can match your timeline.

The reason to look at accreditation for a guideline, or a guide to choose a high quality program is because accreditation requires the institutions to submit to a self-study. The institutions have to prepare a report that outlines their curriculum, their levels, how they choose in hiring faculty. How they continue their training of the faculty. How they recruit students. How they talk to students when they recruit them. What kind of information they give, and what promises they might make. How they grade or assess their students. How they may, when a student is finished with one level, and then can move up to the next level-- Or how they talk to students about if they are doing well in a program, how do the students know that? Or, if the students are struggling in the program, how can they be sure where to focus their efforts and move on?

The report that is created through an accreditation process is intense. It is a long report. And it is really good for these institutions to examine what they're doing. Many times an institution starts because there are students who need those services at the institution. For example, in our case, we had a group of flight attendants from Japan come to our school, and-- we have an aviation program-- they came to the school and their English wasn't at a high enough level where they could understand the instruction and the faculty in the aviation program. So they needed some extra English support. Well, we were able to put this together back in 1991, and it was great, it worked for the students, the end goal seemed successful. But the next time some students came that needed English support, we had to re-create it.

So, the accreditation process asks people, asks institutions that are already doing some kind of English training, to explain, how do you do what you do? How do you know? What are your goals? Then, once that report is created, it's checked by experts.

Those experts are other people in the field who have been working in IEPs. They are members of AAIEP, members of UCIEP. And they have come together over the years, and they have formed a guide for institutions that are seeking accreditation, that asks them questions to examine what they're doing. To make sure it is a high quality.

It's an intensive process. It can take over two years to seek accreditation. And it's not guaranteed. The organization or the school that is seeking accreditation has to prove, has to show, in great detail, that they are doing all the things that they say they're doing.

CEA is a group that was started many years ago in the '60s. And they put together a group of directors of institutional programs, and some faculty who have earned their PhDs and have been teaching English quite a long time, and said, what do we need to see to make sure these programs are high quality?

After some time of research, and revising the standards, and testing them, the US Secretary of Education recognized the CEA as a program that could start to accredit IEPs and language programs in the United States and internationally. The CEA offers training programs for institutions to understand how to do the self-study. They offer support, as programs are going through, to help them clarify language, and to understand the nuances of some of the program qualifications.

And finally, they send a panel of experts to the school to see face-to-face, in person, that what they say in the report is accurate and true. The experts, when they arrive at the institution, look through all of the papers of the institution. They look for the syllabi for the classes. They look for the [? schooling ?] guides for the assignments. They look for the faculty resumes and curricula vitae. They interview the faculty, the directors, the students, the administrators at the university. It's extensive, involved, and they are very careful to double check and certify that what is in the report is accurate and true.

CEA is one of the newer organizations that deals with accreditation issues. They and ACCET both accredit IEPs and English language training programs. AAIEP and UCIEP are a little bit older, they started before CEA and ACCET.

However, AAIEP and UCIEP do not accredit institutions or English language programs. They are leaders in the field. They are made up of members, before CEA, who went through a self-study program similar to CEA. But they don't accredit the institutions.

Now, if an institution wants to join, as a member, AAIEP or UCIEP they must be accredited by either ACCET or CEA. So you can look at the websites for AAIEP and UCIEP and see that newer members are definitely accredited by either CEA or ACCET.

So I'd like to talk a little bit about my university. We have extremely high quality and have many accredited programs, our academic programs and our English as a Second Language. For example, in our Business School we are AACSB accredited. Our Aviation Program is CAA accredited. And, in fact, in our state of Missouri, right in the heartland of the United States, we have the most accredited programs at one higher education institution.

Because we're located in a rural environment, a small town, we have convenience and safety. Convenience is, if your goals are academic, we have conditional admission. That means even if your English isn't high enough to enter directly into an academic programs, you can enter into the IEP, finish your English training, and then begin your academic program.

So many students-- maybe they have taken the TOEFL, or maybe they had studied English in high school, or previously, but their English skills just aren't strong enough to be successful in an academic program. They feel-- they don't have the confidence to sit in a lecture with a professor and understand everything that they need to understand to be successful. That's where our IEP can help them. And it's convenient, because they don't have to change locations. They are helped by our Student Services Department to understand how the university works, and to take advantage of other support services that are there.

It's also convenient because we are located on campus. Some of the other institutions will have an IEP off-campus. And you have to commute, or you have to figure out your transportation somehow.

We also have on-campus housing for students. Both co-ed and separated by gender. We have some men's housing and some women's housing as well. We additionally have apartments that are on-campus for families or those students who have children.

In addition, the food and transportation, it's all included in the campus. You really don't need to have a car or anything else to get around in our town. Because it's so tightly packed that there's a way to get everywhere you might need. There's good transportation. There's food on-campus. There's a store on-campus. Everything's right there on-campus.

Also, the town of Warrensburg is small. It has about 17,000 residents. And the university has 11,000 students. So you can see that, 11,000 to 17,000, the university is just about as big as the town. It's very safe. And we have a police force for the campus itself. And we also have our town police force. So we actually have quite a bit of security in our town.

Finally, because it's the Midwest, and because it's a small town, Warrensburg and UCM are very affordable. Our tuition is really low cost for undergraduates. It's $401 a credit hour. And for graduates its $506 a credit hour. It's really affordable, comparing it to other four year institutions across the state, across the region, and across the country.

Because it's a small town, there's also an extremely low cost of living. Many students budget only $500 for food for a semester. So four or more months of living, and you only spend around $100 or $125 to eat for that entire time.

So in our IEP, I just want to repeat, we are accredited. We offer conditional admission for both graduate and undergraduate students. We offer not only our IEP, which is academically focused, we also have a cultural, more personal, goal oriented summer camp for English. And we offer, in the summertime also, Business English. We've done some programs, as I said, with flight attendants, with executives, we've done programs with faculty from other universities internationally that teach in English.

But our IEP is for academic preparation. We have six levels, from level 6, the advanced level, to level 1, the beginning level. When we recruit students, we ask for them to have an intermediate level of English. We expect our students to come in at a level 4 or 5. And we expect them to finish the IEP within one year of study.

If a student has academic records, like their transcript from high school, or a TOEFL test, or something, that indicates that their English is intermediate, we will accept them at our institution. And then sometimes when they get there, maybe their English is a little bit lower than some of their records would indicate. Or maybe they feel they don't have confidence to be successful in the classes. And so we can address those concerns once the student is with us. It's not a worry for the student.

In our IEP we have five core classes. All students are required to take reading, writing, grammar, communication skills, and testing skills. We also offer elective classes. More fun classes, but also very informative. American culture, vocabulary and tutorial. At our university we also have a program of accent reduction, working on students' pronunciation of English and getting to that the desired dialect of a Midwestern accent.

Our IEP has sessions that are eight weeks long. So students can start in August, at the traditional beginning of the academic year. They can start in October. They can start in January. Or they can start in March or May. It gives students a lot more opportunities to pick a start date that works for their classes. Because many programs outside of the United States don't follow the same academic year as the United States.

Why do students choose UCM? Many times, or maybe the majority of the time, it's because of their academic program. They want to study business, and they need it to be at an affordable price, at an accredited school. They can come to UCM. They want to study aviation at an accredited school, at an affordable price. They can come to UCM. They want to have the Midwestern dialect at an affordable price. They can come to UCM.

And sometimes students come because they have friends or family who studied here. Or they have met a recruiter overseas. And it's often a surprise. You have an idea of what it would be like, but when you get there, you get surprised. Because it's different than you thought. But there are a lot of really kind people, a lot of great student services that help students, once they arrive, acculturate to be successful at UCM.

Of course, UCM is accredited, but there are other programs that have been accredited longer than we have. That doesn't mean that we are better or worse than these programs. It's just that we have gone through this process, and our quality is guaranteed. There are new programs that are being accredited every year. These programs also have very high quality. Accreditation isn't the only way to make sure that your program has high quality. It's just a good way to start, because when you look at the whole United States, it can be really intimidating to think about, how do I pick a program that's the best for me?

If you'd like to contact me about UCM, or even just about choosing an IEP, my email is herman-- that's H-E-R-M-A-N-- @ucmo.edu Or you can contact our International Admissions, and it's intladmit@ucmo.edu. Or you could write to us at our International Center. Or you can just go on and check out our website at www.ucmo.edu/international.

Some of the other things to look for when you're choosing an IEP is to ask, what types of admissions do they have? Do they have conditional admission? Is it a direct line from their IEP into an academic program? You should also be able to find information about their mission. Are they focused on students like you? Students with your needs? Or is their mission so broad, or possibly, maybe they don't have a mission, so they aren't focused on students like you and what students like you need.

You should be able to see what levels they have. Are they equivalent to something? Do they have TOEFL equivalencies? Do they have TOIEC equivalencies? Some kind of idea so you can see what level you should come in at, and how long it will take you to finish.

Do they give information about the faculty? Good faculty make a good program. And having faculty that have been teaching in the program for a while, faculty that have the training and expertise to serve you, that will make a good program.

You also want to see, what kind of term is their school? Is it 8 week? 16 week? 4 week? How long is it and how long can you expect to stay in it?

I also like to see, if I'm looking at an IEP, what is their curriculum, or what can they tell you about the curriculum? Do they have core classes available? Do they have electives? When are you in the different classes? Are the classes going to help the skills that you need?

Finally, cultural activities. IEP is great, and we always tell our students, study hard. But you also need to have fun. So cultural activities can help you adjust to having an American life, to living in the United States. And they should also be helpful to improve your English. So not just shopping, but something that relates to your learning.

And, hopefully, something that relates to your speaking. For example, one of the things that we offer is conversation partners. We ask the students about their hobbies and interests. And we match them with an American student who has similar hobbies and interests. And they meet once a week and chat in English. So it's not academic, but it is helping their English. We also have other opportunities for students to practice English with community members. So, again, not academic, but practicing English.

We also do many activities that are in the community that do possibly have an academic slant to them, or an academic aspect of them, and the faculty work with the students to prepare for those activities. So they can not only have fun and enjoy their life in the United States, but they can also learn something about their community. Who lives there? What happens there? What's everyday life like? Being a student on a campus isn't always the same as just being a person who lives in town.

Maybe I would add one more thing. Do they have a Student Handbook for the IEP students? That would give you a lot of information. And that should be available to you before you enroll at that school.