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Community colleges lauded as USA’s secret weapon

The USA’s international education sector remains beleaguered by slowing enrolment numbers, a difficult political environment, and a dollar value making it less competitive compared with other study destinations. But better promotion of community colleges and the transfer system that offers a 2+2 access route into US higher education could be the country’s secret weapon.

Community College of Philadelphia, which offers transfer into top-tier universities. Photo: CCP

He argued that transferring to complete a bachelor's degree at university was a low cost, low risk access route

This was a message that came through from various stakeholders speaking at the AIRC Conference in Florida this month.

Jing Luan, provost, international education at San Mateo County Community College District in Silicon Valley, used data to back his arguments, showing that at highly ranked UC Berkeley, for example, the number of transfer students admitted was rising year on year while freshman admissions were declining.

With many community colleges having transfer agreements enshrined in law, he argued that earning an associate degree at community college and then transferring to complete a bachelor’s degree at university was a low cost, low risk access route.

“The top 50 universities in America admitted 62,000 transfer students [in 2013],” he related, citing further data revealing only a handful of freshman (year one) students from China being admitted into many Ivy League schools in 2016.

Andrew Chen, managing director of WholeRen Education, an innovative US-based agency that services clients in China and has four offices in China too, backed the position that the transfer route into top tier universities is an effective model.

His company offers Chinese students support while in the US and undergoing the transfer process, advising on transfer from community college and from a lower-ranked to a higher-ranked university. His company helps educate parents in China about this opportunity.

“Community college, this system does not exist in China, so the transfer system doesn’t exist,” he explained to The PIE News.

He added, “I always say that President Trump did one good thing for international education, because both him and his daughter transferred into UPenn Wharton School.”

“You’ve got to understand the strength of the Indian middle class, there’s a lot of volume”

Zepur Solakian, CEO of the Centre for Global Advancement of Community Colleges, was also attending the event to advocate for wider consideration of associate degrees for international students considering the US.

She raised an observation that with tuition fees being substantially lower, not all education agencies were financially motivated to recommend such programs if their commission is a proportion of tuition fees.

Responding, Sushil Sukwhani, director of Edwise International in India, said this was not a reason for his counsellors not recommending the 2+2 route. But he noted that the families of Indian students were focused on the prestige of its well ranked institutions.

“[Parents] want to say that their children got into an institution of high recall, that people have heard of,” said Sukwhani, who said more joined-up promotion of community colleges from Education USA and other parties would be helpful.

“Commission should not be the stumbling block,” he continued. “You’ve got to understand the strength of the Indian middle class, there’s a lot of volume out there.

“There are a lot more students at a different price point and you can serve the cause of education in India and the USA [via this route] and.. get volumes to increase.”

Solakian observed that typical fees at community college range from US$6000-12,000 per year. This  compares with fees of US$20,000-40,000 at university-level.

Celebrating its ninth year, the American International Recruitment Council is a membership organisation comprising education agencies that have paid to undergo an accreditation process and US education institutions.

  • Further in-depth interviews with Sukwhani, Chen and Luan will be published in due course.

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7 Responses to Community colleges lauded as USA’s secret weapon

  1. I agree with points mentioned in that community colleges are good pathway for students who wish to transfer to good four year colleges. In Taiwan most young people have a degree, so getting a good four degree is important from a good school. The community college pathway is a good way for this !

  2. This article provides a valuable service. Taking the path from a community college to a university is a wise one. I am president of Pamlico Community College in North Carolina, where the tuition and fees total only $2,400 per year, compared to the average university in America having tuition and fees of about $24,000. Quality of education at community colleges is excellent, with Pamlico’s students who go on to the university earning grade point averages at the university that are higher than those students who start at the university from day one.

  3. I believe the 2+2 model community colleges to US universities is an excellent access route to the US higher education system It needs a holistic approach in educating parents, students, agent Counselors on the perception of community colleges and also lifting the concerns on ‘higher’ visa reject rates by US embassy than applying for universities or pathway program. We have an unexpected high visa reject rate for this January intake and students withdrew prior to visa interviews once they heard their fellow students having been rejected. Today, I got a question when I was talking to an agent about American Honors and American Success programs. The 2nd questions raised by the agent was ‘what is the visa reject rate?”. It will be interesting to do a comparative research on visa rejection rate of students applying visas for US community colleges versus universities.

  4. I have been hoping to do this for a long time but the visa rejection rate in India for community colleges is discouraging students and guidance counselors such as myself from trying this option. I hope colleges will reach out to the state department and US embassies in India to resolve the visa issues.

  5. This is very inspirational and a very motivating material for all of us. I am glad that I have seen this post. The things that was acknowledge by our works will surely help us to achieve more awards in our life in the future.

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