When Erdenetuya Bat-Erdene found out that her score on an English-proficiency exam was too low for her to enroll in a graduate business program at Golden Gate University, she was crushed.

But rather than reject her application outright, admissions officials at Golden Gate, a Bay Area institution, offered Ms. Bat-Erdene, a 29-year-old from Mongolia, an option: She could be provisionally accepted to the university if she enrolled in a 15-week preparatory program.

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