Accessibility links

Breaking News

School Ends, and So Too Does Our Foreign Student Series

A look at graduation time in America. All 43 reports in our series on US higher education can be found at Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Summer means the end of another school year in America. May and June are graduation season.

Centuries of tradition explain the special caps and gowns that students and professors wear at commencement ceremonies. Top members of the class and invited guests offer speeches and advice. Finally the time comes for what everyone has been waiting for: one by one, the names of the students are called.

They go to the front and shake hands with school officials. They might receive their official diploma that day or maybe a few weeks later.

Graduations are always emotional events. But in May, at Fort Hays State University in Kansas, a graduate named Nola Ochs received special attention. Her major area of study was history. Nothing unusual about that. But Nola Ochs is ninety-five years old.

That made her the world's oldest graduate for the keepers of the Guinness World Records. Until now they have recognized a ninety-year-old journalism graduate from the University of Oklahoma in two thousand four.

Nola Ochs' granddaughter graduated with her. One of the commencement speakers told the students to take a lesson from Nola Ochs and never stop trying.

That is good advice on which to end our Foreign Student Series on higher education in the United States. We began in September with the process of applying to an American college or university. We talked about admissions tests, financial aid, online education, student exchange programs, programs for disabled students and a lot more.

All forty-three reports can be found online at Many were based on questions from listeners. We invite you to continue writing us with your questions about the American education system. Our Foreign Student Series may be over for now, but we will still try to answer questions on future reports. Our e-mail address is

Population experts at the Census Bureau say American colleges and universities will have an estimated eighteen million students this fall. Twenty years ago, there were thirteen million. Today there are not only more college-age Americans, but more going to college, including older people and women. At last report from two years ago, fifty-six percent of undergraduates were women. And women were fifty-nine percent of graduate students.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. I'm Steve Ember.