Community colleges: think global

International students seldom think of going to study at a community college. And that’s because there is this (sometimes) wrong misconception that community colleges don’t have a proper vision put in place for internationalisation. With this booming marketplace though, this will soon cease to be the case.

In the US, community colleges thinking of internalisation often run into challenges switched on by stakeholders, leaders and students altogether. Changing policies, plans and focal points from a national to an international angle involves hard work and, undoubtedly, big budgets, to say the least.Conform American Association of Community Colleges, more than 700 community colleges from within the US are legally entitled to enrol international students. Opening that door to the world would have an incredible impact on the country’s economy.

Conform American Association of Community Colleges, more than 700 community colleges from within the US are legally entitled to enrol international students. Opening that door to the world would have an incredible impact on the country’s economy.

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But as simple as it may sound, doing so is not that easy.

The financial aspect is rather crucial here. On one hand, students enrolled at community colleges might not have the necessary funds to even think of study-abroad programs; and on the other hand, these colleges struggle to entice international students to choose them. On top of everything, it can sometimes be a matter of culture or lack of information: for instance, in China or Argentina, people haven’t heard of community colleges.

Dawn Wood, Director of International Programs for Kirkwood Community College, affirms that “effectively recruiting students requires a different model than if you are a large university in southern California or New York.”

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It’s not all bad news though. In 2016, 9% (more than 95,000) of all international students have enrolled in Associate Degree granting colleges. Community colleges have more potential than we give them credit for.

Finding the right strategy, creating designated communities to support internationalisation, inviting the private sector to get involved, signing partnerships with universities, globalising the current curriculum - yes, huge tasks to add to a community college's agenda. But the investment will pay off as soon as they embrace global programming.

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