Education: University in the USA
First some 'English' ;-)
Technically, a university is made up of different colleges, with the College of Engineering, the College of Agriculture, the College of Business, the College of Liberal Arts all being part of a "University". Some schools that have only one general degree program, such as a liberal arts degree, are still known as a "college"--St. Johns College in Annapolis, Williams College in Massachusettes, etc. But as far as most Americans are concerned, "college" and "university" are essentially the same thing.
College/university in the US is something most Americans undertake following graduation from high school (at age 18) and pursue for 4-5 years (or 7 in the case of Senator Blutarsky). University education in the US is split between publicly-funded schools (University of Michigan, University of Illinois, California-Berkley, etc) and private schools (Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Notre Dame). There also exists what are known as "Community Colleges" funded by the state and offering Associate degrees (2-year courses).
An American 'Bachelor's degree' (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science) is generally a 4-year-program. There is approximately one year of "general studies" in which a student will be required to take some basic English, history, math, science and in some schools, religion or theology (if it is a religious university). After that the student focuses on course "in their major" taking courses relevant to their degree (about 2 to 2.5 years worth of courses) and a few 'electives' in which students can get a "minor" in some other field. A majority of students change majors during their 4 years in college after exposure through the general education requirements and electives to other fields of study.
An 'Associates Degree' is a 2-year course of study, most often offered by community colleges and frequently involving work in a trade (auto repair, forensic technician, dental hygienist, etc.).
Community colleges serve several a couple of different roles--they grant associate degrees in some trades for those who don't need a full degree but do require some higher education. They are also a way for some borderline students to get a taste of higher education and decide whether or not they want to attend a full 4-year school. And finally, most importantly, they are a great stepping stone into the higher education system at a much lower cost. Many students will attend a community college to get their "required courses" out of the way, i.e. basic math, English, science, philosophy, etc. Once they graduate with an associates degree, they transfer to a 4-year school (often more prestigious) and go on to study for a full bachelor's degree from that university. The course work they did at the community college transfers over to that school such they save themselves a couple of years of tuition at the big school but still end up with the same diploma.
Financial assistance is difficult to obtain short of citizenship. Some programs exist for green card holders but temporary residents are not eligible for many programs.
A key thing to remember is the concept of "in state"--for a public university, if you can prove residence you are given "in state" tuition rates. Note: residence for "in-state" tuition is an entirely different test than "residence" for immigration purposes. Each state varies.
If you live "in state" you are eligible for a discount at the local public university but if you attempt to attend a public university "out of state" you will pay a much higher tuition fee (comparable to a private university). For example, the taxpayers of Illinois subsidize those Illinois citizens who decide to attend the University of Illinois or Eastern Illinois University or Southern Ill. U. If someone from New York wanted to attended Illinois, they would not receive this local subsidy and have to pay quite a high fee, essentially the same as if they were attending a private school.
This savings can be as much as $20,000-$30,000. Some students attend public universities "in state" and then transfer for the last two years to a more prestigious and expensive private school for graduation.