Institutional Choices

Language Magazine asks leading educators to weigh in on the pros and cons of university-affiliated institutes and private language schools

International students face many important decisions when considering an experience abroad in the U.S. for English-language training. Which location? What time of year is best? What length of study? These are choices that students will have to make based on what type of cultural experience they want. Here at Language Magazine, we want to offer assistance to students who are at the point of choosing a program. We asked school directors to explain the different benefits that university-affiliated language centers and private language institutes have to offer students who want to study English in the USA.
Here’s what they told us:
University-Affiliated IEP
“As an IEP within a college, we offer an academic environment for study. Moreover all the facilities, activities, and events at the university are open to our students. We are also able to offer students a free conversation partner program using students from the university who benefit from the cross-cultural exchange.”
— Chris Mares, director
Intensive English Institute
University of Maine

“Many university-based English language programs are designated by their main campus to act as a pathway for or support to its international student admissions and recruitment department. This means that some universities will collaborate closely with their English language program to determine the language proficiency of students who want to qualify for admission to the main campus degree programs. A student who is more serious, more academically focused, or would like to experience a university setting will excel in a university-based English language program. Students whose goals are to obtain a degree and/or move forward in their academic career may find the setting of a university-based English language program more satisfying than a private English language institute.
“In some instances, university-based English language programs can also provide English language training in content-specific topics such as engineering, science, law, medicine and business, because of their access to a larger faculty and community of experts.
“Ultimately, when students are selecting their study options, it is always best to pick a program that the student is most comfortable with and a location where the student feels that they can flourish academically and personally.”
Roxanne Nuhaily, director
International Studies and
International Student Services
University of Calfornia San Diego Extension
“University-based IEPs can develop relationships with entities on campus that can provide services to the IEP or to the students. In our case, the American English Institute works closely with the Linguistics Department on campus in order to provide teacher training for their TESL students.
“The students who benefit the most from programs such as ours tend to have language learning goals before they arrive, whether that goal is to improve their academic English for university study or to improve communication skills for their work. These students tend to be self-motivated, ones who are willing to put in the hours after classes are finished to meet the goals they have set for themselves.”
— Cheryl Chan, director
English Language Institute at
Cal State University, Fresno

“University program courses typically run for a full semester, while language institutes often have new students entering every two to four weeks. This constant change up can feel very disruptive for students staying for any extended period of time. It also impacts the curriculum which must be organized into shorter self-contained modules to accommodate the coming and going of students. A university program English course will go into a greater depth and development of a skill or theme.
“University IEPs usually require their faculty to have an MA in TESOL. University level teachers have committed to a professional career in the TESOL field. There is a wide range of instruction quality amongst private-language institutes. Some don’t require any professional TESOL credentials, others require recognized and reputable Certificate training and do extensive in-house training and development. It’s a good idea to find out the experience and training of the teachers before enrolling in any private language institutes.”
— Caitlin Morgan, director
English Language Studies Department
The New School
Private IEP
“Accessibility and personality are the biggest differences that students can expect with us versus university-affiliated language schools. We make our programs affordable for our students, and we also enjoy knowing our students on a personal level. Most university-affiliated program directors can’t say that they know the name of every individual student at their school. We can. Our personality is evident in the activities, events, customized classes, and community of our school. As a private language school, we’re allowed to shape our teaching staff with energetic attitudes, capable classroom managers and proven strategies to help students take on and retain new concepts of language.”
— Nick Sacco, director of Student Services
Connect English San Diego

“The strongest benefit is that students can essentially get the same high quality of education for less tuition costs with fewer restrictions. Private IEPs speak to a wide range and highly diverse student demographic. These programs generally limit the number of students to teacher for a variety of reasons, but ultimately the smaller classes provide for more personal attention in the classroom.
“Parents who need to support their children as they move through the American school system, professionals who need to work on their language skills but need time to juggle their professional lives, and students who are hoping to transfer to an English-speaking university can all benefit from private programs.”
— Heather Tyler, teacher
Aston International Academy, Austin, Texas

“English language learning is the
primary focus at a private English language school, which means students benefit from being part of a small community of students with common goals who are provided specialized program support. Private English language schools are set up with the ESL learner in mind — all resources, activities, and programming experiences are designed to provide both an exceptional learning environment plus opportunities to experience life in America through various cultural, professional, and volunteer activities. The students who typically excel at private English language schools are those who want a rigorous but flexible program that can be customized based on specific goals: improving speaking skills, learning business English, or living with an American host family.”
Lindsay Putnam, center director
Intrax San Francisco