Community colleges have been diversifying their student populations in recent years to include students from other states and even other countries. As some two-year schools become known for specific programs, transfer agreements with four-year institutions and even partnerships with local businesses, their appeal is expanding as well. International students interested in a U.S. community college may enjoy a number of benefits, but face unique challenges in making their higher education dreams a reality.
Why International Students Choose Community College
There are a number of reasons why international students are looking at community colleges today, according to a report at U.S. News, including:
- Lower Tuition Rates – Students from a distance find affordable higher education through America’s community college system. For example, U.S. News and World Report cites the average cost of 24 credits from Diablo Community College in California at around $6,000, while the same number of credits at San Jose State University, a neighboring four-year school, is around $16,500 for the same number of credits.
- Transfer Options – Many community colleges across the country now have transfer agreements with four-year schools, ensuring students that begin their education in a two-year program can finish their baccalaureate degree at a nearby institution.
- Smoother Transition – Students coming from other countries often find community college is an easier transition to the American way of life. Many community colleges provide English language courses and other services to help international students adapt to a new language and culture.
- Easier Requirements – For international students who don’t have the academic credentials to transfer directly to a four-year institution, community college offers a flexible alternative that allows them to bring their grades up to par for admittance to four-year schools in the U.S.
With many benefits for community college students, these two-year schools are not without their share of challenges. The biggest one for many students coming to a community college from overseas is finding affordable housing on or near the college campus. Fortunately, many community colleges are tuning into that need today, to offer options for students that need a place to live while they are in school.
This video explains why community colleges are a viable option for international students.
The Housing Quandary
Housing can be a big problem for international students traveling overseas to attend community college in the U.S. Many of these campuses do not provide accommodations for students, and their location can limit how much affordable housing is nearby. However, U.S. News reports in a separate article that numerous options now exist for international students at community colleges nationwide – even those that do not currently offer on-campus housing.
Community colleges are quickly learning that they need to provide housing options for international students that are affordable and convenient to campus. Housing programs might include anything from campus dormitories to housing close to campus, through apartments or host families. Dormitories offer speedy immersion into American culture, which some international students appreciate helping them acclimate to a new country sooner.
Other international students prefer the softer touch of a “homestay” program, where they live with host families that help them adapt to the foreign culture while providing room and (sometimes) board. International students looking into housing options at a community college should first inquire as to whether housing is guaranteed for students at the school. In addition, students should find out how close the housing is to the college campus and whether any meals are included in the housing fee.
This video offers five reasons why community colleges may be a good option for international students.
How Community Colleges Court International Students
As international students explore the challenges facing them at U.S. community colleges today, they should also keep in mind that many of these institutions are in the process of actively recruiting international students to their ranks. MLive reports that some two-year schools in the state have increased their focus on international students to broaden interest in their programs.
For example, the publications report that Jackson Community College in Michigan recently celebrated the grand opening of their new International Student Institute, which was designed for both international students coming to the community college and Michigan students interested in studying abroad. The international focus is part of the school's overall strategic plan, according to Rebekah Woods, provost for Jackson Community College.
“The number of international students at JCC has varied from year to year, from just a few to more than a dozen,” Woods explained to MLive.
Internationalizing the Community College Experience
As the international focus takes on national proportions, community colleges have become the recipients of recognition and awards for their commitment to a global approach to higher education. According to the Cypress Creek Mirror, the Lone Star College System recently received the coveted Simon Award given by the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA). The award, named for the late U.S. senator from Illinois, Paul Simon, recognizes excellence in integrating international education across college campuses.
The Lone Star College System is a growing community college system within the Houston area and one of the largest systems in the United States to date. The institution boasts an enrollment of around 90,000 students at its six different colleges. During the fall semester in 2012, the school system had more than 2,100 students attending its campuses from more than 100 countries across the globe.
This video suggests that certain admissions requirements are not as stringent at community colleges.
Going global is a mantra seen in many aspects of 21st-century culture, including higher education. With community colleges making great strides in the recruitment of international students today, students from around the world can enjoy more options in higher education than they have had in the past. Affordable, easy-to-navigate community college campuses are now becoming the institutions of choice for many international students today.
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