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Community Colleges in the United States are Expanding their Programs and Services to Embrace the World Community

Community Colleges act as a stepping stone to American Universities and as an international student, there are several advantages to attending a community college.
BY Pooja Prakash |   01-03-2011

Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report for academic year 2008/09 indicated overall higher growth for undergraduate enrollments (10% increases) as compared to the graduate enrollments (2.3% increase) from India. Although these numbers reflect enrollments before the setting of recession , they clearly indicate that undergraduate level enrollments are gaining momentum owing to increasing economic growth and expansion of the elite class in India.

However - for those Indian students who aspire to go abroad for higher studies but affordability still seems to be a constrain- Community Colleges are a good option as the cost of tuition is somewhat 20-50% less than a regular University which helps a  student to save substantially for the first two years of study.

Judith Irwin, Director of International Programs & Services -Association of Community Colleges, in conversation with Pooja Prakash discussed the benefits of enrolling at a community college.

How are community colleges different from the University?

The main difference is they are just 2 year institution rather than 4 years and award associate degree in science or arts upon completion of a program of study.  On the other hand, four year Universities offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees upon course completion.

 What happens if a student wants to pursue bachelor’s degree after finishing community college.

An associate degree enables student to transfer to any state university for an additional 2 years of study to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Articulation agreements with 4-year universities allow credits earned at a community college to transfer towards a bachelor‘s degree. This means student completes first 2 years at a community college and last 2 years at a University and receives a bachelor’s degree.

Do all credits get transferred to State University?

Yes, if the course requirement is met than all the credits get transferred. Usually advisers offer guidance and provide information to help student make decisions and develop a plan that will meet their educational goals.Many international students save thousands of dollars in tuition by attending community colleges for their first two years and then transferring to four year institutions to complete their degree.

Can student transfer to any school of their choice?

Yes, they can transfer to any state school and in fact students usually have a better chance of getting into a prestigious institution as a transfer student rather than as a first year student because competition is fearsome for the first year and applicants may not fulfill all the requirements for admission.  If student do very well in community colleges than the University of their choice become somewhat more accessible.

Are there any support services available at the community colleges for the international students?

Yes, Community colleges offer a variety of programs and support services to embrace world community, this includes tutoring, study skills workshops, academic advising, counseling and career planning- many of which are designed specifically for international students. There are all kinds of clubs and associations and advisors- community colleges work very hard to make students comfortable and keep them satisfied.

Are there any scholarships available for international students during their 2 years at a community college?

No, there are no scholarships available, but students can work on campus under work study program for 20 hours in a week.

How are the scholarship opportunities at the University as a transfer student after attending a community college for 2 years?

The opportunities are as same as they will have if they were in the University system from the beginning and particularity if they come to the university with a good or excellent academic standing they may be part of the deal where the school will be willing to give them scholarship.

Why should an international student choose a community college over a 4-year institution to get a bachelor degree?

As an international undergrad student, there are several advantages to attend community colleges. They act as a stepping stone to 4- Year College or universities and offer benefits like:

Lower tuition cost-   Tuition fee at a community college is approximately20-  50% less than a regular university which helps an international student to save substantially for the first two years f study.

Lower  or no TOFEL requirements-  Community colleges may accept lower TOFEL and IELTS scores  and some community colleges even waive  English proficiency requirements , which means  all an applicant need is a high school degree  and  a  proof of good financial standing to cover  tuition for  2 years.

Additional Year of Optional Practical training (OPT)-  Students are eligible for 1 year of OPT in their field of study after completion of  an associate degree and an additional 1 to 2 .5 years after completion of bachelors degree.  

One advantage of getting a bachelors degree through the route of community college is that the students can have two OPT opportunities verses one.

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