Nordic American Learning Alliance (NALA) launchs its website, www.gradusa.org.

Nordic American Learning Alliance

The idea came about due to a deep concern both for Norway and United States that the number of Norwegian students to the United States dropped dramatically over the last six to seven years. In the l990s the number of Norwegian students who studied in the United States ranged between 2,000-3,000 annually. Currently, it stands at under 800.

Raising the issue at U.S. Norway Forum, the Norwegian American Foundation took action in the fall of 2006 and called a meeting to discuss an initiative to create a collaborative group of Norwegian-Lutheran colleges to encourage the exchange of students between Norway and the United States.

Dr. Bill Frame, recently retired President of Augsburg College, and his wife Anne, were asked to lead an NAF education initiative that eventually became the Norwegian American Learning Alliance (NALA). In January of 2007 they made a formal proposal to the board of the Norwegian American Foundation and from there, things started falling into place.

Just days after the proposal Dr. Anderson, Dr. Frame, and Kim Nesselquist, Norwegian American Foundation CEO, met with Thrivent Financial CEO Bruce Nicholson.

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans was formed in 2001 by Aid Association for Lutherans and Lutheran Brotherhood (LB). Before this merger, Lutheran Brotherhood had long been trying to cultivate collaboration among Lutheran colleges in the United States, but had yet to be satisfied with their success.

When Thrivent had the opportunity to become involved in this new cooperation, they generously offered a match-donation. Each of the involved Lutheran colleges donated $10,000 and Thrivent matched each one of them. This gave NALA the $100,000 budget they needed to get going. Later, UND also got involved as a partner in the intitiative.

Immediately, the work began and studies were conducted in Norway to better understand why students from Norway had recently been less interested in studying in the United States.

In the meantime, Norway‘s ambassador to the United States Knut Vollebæk and the U.S. ambassador to Norway, Ben Whitney, came together and toured a handful of the Norwegian-Lutheran colleges in the mid-west, spreading the word about a new collaboration.

Research suggested students weren’t as interested in studying in the United States because of lack of freshman financing from the Norwegian Loan Fund, and a tedious application process, especially compared to the simple process they faced in Europe.

With this new knowledge NALA created a new application process for students from Norway interested in applying to one of the six involved institutions: Augsburg College, Augustana College, Concordia College, Luther College, Pacific Lutheran University and the University of North Dakota. Other universities are knocking on the door to participate and become members of the Nordic American Learning Alliance.

Instead of having to apply at and meet the criteria of each individual college, students can now apply to all six colleges with the same application, the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is waived, significant scholarships opportunities have been developed, students enter as sophomores (Norway does not provide loans to students with Freshman status), and applying is free. The colleges and universities also agreed to a joint marketing plan, tested out successfully last week at a large student fair in Norway. At the same time the NALA website www.gradusa.org went live and was launched at a large reception hosted by Ambassador Ben Whitney in Oslo. Now students in Norway can apply to the six universities with just a few clicks, and with the simplified application process, success in increasing the exchange between students in the United States and Norway is sure to abound.

For more information, visit NALA’s website at gradusa.org.

Source: Norwegian American Foundation

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