Community Colleges and the Global Economy

Published May 19, 2008 |
Community Colleges and the Global Economy
Learn how community colleges have evolved to prepare students for the global economy.
Community colleges play an integral role in our country. In fact, according to the Community College Journal, almost one-half of the nation’s undergraduates start their post-high school educational careers at a community college. 
As community colleges continue to evolve, they address the importance of a global perspective for students and faculty. Globalization present in today’s economic environment means students must be prepared to face international competition. Not only have many U.S. jobs moved overseas, but also jobs available in this country require a higher level of skills than was necessary a decade ago. 
Educating the workforce and preparing students for this new global environment is now one of the primary goals of many community colleges. As you will see, they are embracing this challenge with innovative ideas and remarkable passion.
The Importance of a Global Perspective   
If community colleges want to prepare students to work and to succeed in the global marketplace, the first step is to build a global perspective at the school itself. That is exactly what a number of community colleges are doing. For example, Southeast Community College in Nebraska surveyed its faculty in 2004 to ascertain how syllabi reflected a global perspective. For example, did English courses incorporate literature from around the world? 
Southeast Community College also expanded its mission to include diversity education, and it now requires every staff person to complete a certain number of hours of “diversity credit” in the form of professional development activities each year. While there was some initial concern that focusing on the global picture would shortchange the diversity issues facing the United States, it was concluded that both awareness of cultural and racial diversity on the domestic front, along with appreciation of global issues, were worthy goals that could be accomplished simultaneously. 
What Southeast Community College is doing is not unique. In the face of these changing times, more community colleges are recognizing the need to prepare students to work in the global economy. They are building a global campus from the ground up. Community colleges are preparing students for the world by showing them the globe right in their classroom and on their campuses. 
The Success of Economically Global Programs
The focus on preparing students to thrive in the global economy has affected many community colleges. In fact, some community colleges have developed degree programs designed to teach students how to succeed in the new international business arena. 
For example, many community colleges have recently created an International Business Associate’s Degree. This degree is designed to prepare students for a variety of careers in an international business setting. Some of the classes included in this degree program focus on international trade, global markets, macroeconomics, global cultures, and international marketing. 
The goal of the international business degree is to foster an understanding of the increasingly global business practices in the world today. Students study how differences of culture impact business practices, such as marketing, advertising, management, organization, and finances. Not surprisingly, community colleges offering this degree require students to take a foreign language when they enroll in this program, and they also offer international internships.  
With this type of educational background, students who earn an International Business Associate’s Degree are eligible for a wide variety of global positions. For example, a student who graduates with an International Business Associates Degree is set up to succeed as an international human resources manager, an international training and development manager, or even an international operations manager. The median annual income for all those positions is approximately $70,000
Clearly, a student graduating from a community college that is focused on the global economy is prepared to soar in the new world. These students are able to explain the fundamentals of international trade and global markets, develop business strategies for implementation in foreign cultures and countries, and manage cultural diversity in the workplace. 
Considering that the demand for managers with international training will only increase over the next few years, international skills grow increasingly important.  Perhaps that is why President Bush recently renewed his commitment to the $250 million Community-Based Job Training Grants, recognizing that community colleges will play a major role in the changing face of the global economy.
Building a Better World
Some community colleges are so committed to building an international community that they are establishing global campuses. 
For example, Broward Community College in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, now has branch campuses in India, Singapore, Ecuador, Spain, and Sri Lanka, and it has plans to expand in Mexico. The theory behind this idea is that by establishing strong global relationships now, students will be able to succeed in the global “village” once they actually leave school. Plus, the curriculum and the course at all the school will be much more diverse, considering all the campuses will be sharing staff and ideas. In fact, Broward is a leader in enrolling foreign students, and they are currently educating over 8,000 students from over 150 countries. 
Broward Community College, like many other community colleges, is preparing students for life in the “real world” by creating the “real world” right at the school. Clearly, it is an idea that is working on many levels.
Perhaps Charles Darwin said it best: “Evolve or Die.” Although he was hypothesizing about organisms, Darwin is still relevant to today’s community colleges. In the face of an ever changing world – and the onset of a true global economy – community colleges have recognized the need to create and to support global instruction to better equip their students for success. After reviewing their philosophies, programs, and ideas about reaching all parts of the globe, community colleges are indeed preparing their students for lives in the global economy.
Community College Journal, “Globalizing: Getting Started”, available at
Southeast Community College homepage, available at
Sage Journals Online, “Globalization and the Community College,” available at

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