Millions of people are thinking about getting an education in the USA. For some of them, this remains an unreachable dream, while others act upon this dream. They are looking for alternative ways to achieve their goals. But what are these alternatives? Is there, for example, an opportunity to somehow save money on education? If there are such educational institutions, would admission to them serve as a bridge to the successful completion of this dream? In my opinion, YES! They do exist, and I want to tell you about them. In this post, you will find answers to these questions, get an idea about community colleges, learn some benefits they offer and some nuances that students should be aware of when applying to them.
What are community colleges? How many of them are there in the U.S.? Community colleges are mostly two-year public institutions of higher education offering a variety of programs and professional development training for today’s workforce with awarding certificates, diplomas and associate degrees. They practice open-access admission policies, enrolling teenagers as well as adults, but the average age of their students is about 28 years old. Community colleges welcome international students from all over the world although natives of the communities where the colleges are located make up the greatest percentage of their population. Colleges offer a huge range of disciplines with a clear predominance of four areas of study that attract more than 50 percent of all students enrolled: general studies and humanities, health professions, business and management, and finally computer science. There are over 1,050 community colleges in the United States according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) enrolling 5.4 million students in 2019 according to National Student Clearinghouse Research Center . More statistics on community colleges is available at Community Colleges Research Center page.
Open to the public in many ways Accessibility, openness, and flexibility are three important features inherent to community colleges. Open admissions process that requires only proof of high school completion and adequate English proficiency is a vivid example of it. Students applying to most of the programs with an exception of some specific ones (health sciences, engineering, or nursing) do not need to take SAT or ACT. Community colleges provide great support to international students by offering English as Second Language courses, academic advisers’ consultations, and mentoring programs available at the Resource Centers. Community colleges tend to have smaller classes averaging 20-30 students offered by faculty devoted entirely to teaching. Students benefit from interaction with students of different educational backgrounds as well as individual attention which contributes to better assimilation of the program and learning process in the long run. Another example of accessibility offered by community colleges is the opportunity of getting a quality education for less money. This type of higher institution may be a good fit for many families who want to send their kids to the U.S. but are having a difficult time coping with rising costs for education as well as with financial losses due to the significant fall in the ruble’s value. The cost of study for one academic year at community colleges varies significantly across the states from about $8,000 to $26,000, which is still a considerable amount of money but is much lower in comparison with four-year institutes of higher education.
2+2 concept For many international students, community colleges are gateways to 4-year schools, including top-rated ones. You can study at a community college for 2-years, get an associate degree and transfer to a 4-year institute of higher education to study for another 2 years and complete a bachelor’s degree. It sounds like a good plan, but to fulfill it you should take into consideration several important aspects and recommendations as follows: – Think carefully about the ultimate goals you would like to reach in terms of degree, major, your future school selectivity, etc. It will help you not only to choose a community college that fits you best but also will allow you to successfully pass a visa interview with a counselor officer who will ask you about the plans and timelines you are trying to meet. Check if there are any articulation agreements outlining specific courses for a smooth transfer process between community colleges and the 4-year institutions you have designated. – Identify the colleges and universities you want to transfer to and learn about their admission requirements for transfer students. Be aware that 4-year colleges may ask you to submit ACT or SAT scores to meet their entry requirements and get financial aid support. Preparing for exams takes a lot of time, so continue improving your English and start working with test materials far in advance. – When at a college, discuss your plans with an academic advisor. Make sure your courses will be accepted at the school to which you’d like to transfer. Review transfer guides and other materials available at each community college. Investigate your potential community colleges in terms of any possibilities of getting financial aid for international students. Check the information about the Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship program offered by Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
- Several changes have occurred in the work of community colleges over the last several years that turned into certain tendencies. Some of these changes apply directly to international students while others have indirectly affects by creating different living environments, student population and offering new study opportunities. The first group of trends include, for example, the increased number of community colleges trying to diversify their student body. Colleges are attracting more international students and improving their housing programs. Look at the list of community colleges with the highest number of international students compiled by IIE and you will see that most of them are located in California, Texas, Florida, Washington and New York states. Another interesting and steady trend is a growing number of community colleges awarding bachelor’s degrees. Presently, more than 120 colleges located in 23 stated offer bachelor’s degrees, according to a report provided by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The largest programs are in business, IT and health care. More information is available at the University of Washington community college research initiative. The set of states and disciplines offered is still limited but the upward trend is obvious.
Additional resources and next steps Check these useful links as well as the EducationUSA resources to learn more about community colleges and our work.
- American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)
- Community colleges review
- Famous community colleges graduates
- Register at EducationUSA Russia website, fill out your profile and mark activities you would like to attend.
- Start self-paced online 120 Credits program for undergraduate students.
- Attend an individual consultation after seven days upon your successful program’s completion with a designated adviser to develop a personal strategic plan to apply to U.S. colleges and universities.