Learn about the opportunities available for international students to pursue tuition-free education through American community colleges.
With reduced tuition costs, shorter program requirements, and flexible course options, community colleges have provided students across the country with immeasurable benefits. To extend their global reach, some United States community colleges are now offering opportunities for international students to earn tuition-free credits.
As VOA News reveals, the US government and participating community colleges have established a program titled “The Community College Initiative.” With this program, the government and community colleges pay the tuition costs for accepted and qualified international students. In the past two years alone, six countries partook in this program, including Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, and Turkey. Recently, Cuba, Ghana, and the majority of Central America also joined with their participation.
The Community College Initiative Program
Established in 2007, the program started as a small and focused effort to boost international education and opportunities. As VOA News further asserts, “The program provides job training for people who otherwise could not attend college. They learn skills their countries need, like agriculture and health care.” Additionally, vocational educators from around the world are able to take advantage of US professional development training and instruction. With just 84 participants in 2007, the number of current participants is now over 500, as students have the option of attending any of the 37 participating community colleges across the country.
With 37 unique locations and programs, the destination for students most significantly depends on each learner's desired academic pathway. Once the school is chosen, international students are able to gain an array of intellectual, social, academic, and cultural benefits. Students are provided with on-campus dormitory housing or off-campus hosting families, ensuring that international students are exposed to unique cultural and experienced-based interactions. With both classes and informal social venues, students are able to gain an insight into America, the culture, and the people.
This video looks at the issue of international students receiving a tuition-free education.
Who Qualifies for the College Initiative Program?
The administrator of the “Community Colleges for International Development” program, Carol Stax-Brown, has outlined specific requirements that admission boards seek out when evaluating potential candidates. Specifically, Stax-Brown asserts that admissions officers look for students with credentials such as:
Ability to speak (minimally) conversational English (Students accepted into the program may enroll in optional English speaking courses prior to the start of their actual program courses)
The desire to live in, interact and experience another culture
In addition to these qualifications, students should have a specific interest in available curriculum pathways presented at community colleges. As outlined by the US Department of State, the initiative program currently provides courses in fields such as:
Also, most participants in the program have been historically chosen from under-served populations. Through these participants, the program seeks to provide opportunities for those with limited opportunities to engage in formal job training and higher education pathways. Ideally, upon completing courses while being immersed in the US culture, participants will be able to contribute to the growth and development of their own communities, societies, and countries. To date, just two years after the invention of this program, over 400 students from around the world have been able to gain knowledge, training, and experience at some of the many participating community colleges across the United States.
This video from Education USA examines the issue of international students in community colleges.
Additional Program Regulations
While the program offers incredible perks and advantages, students who are interested in pursuing these academic opportunities should be aware of specific regulations. As Stax-Brown further reveals, students should verify whether or not their country will accept community college credits earned by the US incentive program. In fact, even some community colleges in the United States itself may not take some (or all) of the credits earned through this endeavor. As such, students should carefully review the transfer and credit regulations of their previous and or intended continuing education schools before enrolling in the program. Adding to this, students who participate in the program are not permitted to return to the United States for two full years after the completion of their studies.
Carol Stax-Brown says colleges in some countries might accept credits from the program. However, this is not a way to immediately transfer to four-year colleges and universities in other countries, including the United States. To find out more, students can contact their local Fulbright Committee or US Embassy office. Additionally, the US Department of State has outlined detailed information for interested candidates.
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