International Students and Community Colleges
January 27, 2020

​​​A new ACE paper brings attention to the often underreported prevalence of international students at U.S. community colleges. 

The brief, “International Students in Community Colleges: An Unplanned Diversity," examines why international students have chosen to enroll in community colleges, benefits that international students bring, as well as important suggestions regarding what community colleges can do to attract and serve international students.

According to 2018 Open Doors data, international students at community colleges represent approximately 10 percent of the total international enrollment in degree-granting U.S. higher education institutions.

The paper's author, Linda Serra Hagedorn, professor emeritus of the School of Education at Iowa State University, writes, “The American community college system is unique in the world, and its ability to assist Americans to achieve a college education is unduplicated anywhere. Colleges that want to attract international students must be ambassadors for the U.S. community college system—one of America's proudest inventions, on par with baseball and apple pie."

As community college leaders consider broadening their international enrollment, it is helpful to understand what attracts international students to community colleges, and how they can benefit their institution. Some of the reasons international students may choose a community college over a four-year institution, are lower costs, more access to online courses, and the ability to finish quickly, the paper explains.

Hagedorn also outlines how leaders can build on these needs by emphasizing community college value and transfer outcomes. Community colleges can also provide more assistance to new international students by helping them find housing, adjust to cultural differences, and access immigration services.

Some of the first steps Hagedorn shares that institutions can take are:

  • Create an internationalization plan or add internationalization strategies to existing plans.

  • Create a recruitment plan that includes an international recruiter.

  • Build an international-friendly website.

  • Use orientation as a tool for acculturation and college readiness.

  • Ensure staff is trained in processing necessary paperwork and reports to allow students to apply and enroll smoothly.

Click here to read the full paper. It is the third in a series focused on community colleges—see below for links to the first two papers.