International Students at Community Colleges

My anecdotal experience is that only in the last few years have I seen what I think of as the “traditional” international student in my community college classroom: 18 years old, from Europe and Asia, in the United States on a student visa. But apparently this is indeed a growing trend.

Continuing a 10-year trend, international student enrollment at U.S. community colleges grew again in 2014 after hitting a peak during the Great Recession. Nearly 88,000 international students attended community colleges in 2013-14, compared to almost 96,000 in 2008-09 and 82,000 in 2004-05, according to the Institute of International Education’s most recent “Open Doors” report.

Many international students want to transfer to four-year institutions to get bachelor’s degrees. Community colleges are attractive because of significantly lower tuition and more flexible standards for language proficiency, among other factors, Wheeler says.

Bunker Hill Community College is already an amazing and diverse place. We had something like 80 countries represented on campus this past semester. I can only guess from conversations in class, but I am sure every class I teach is a majority foreign-born, with some an even higher percentage. The international student adds to this wonderful diversity. In two recent semesters I had several international students, straight from their secondary schools in Europe and elsewhere. Among students often older than them, working full-time and more, the international student–new to the country, here to focus on school–adds an extra, welcome dimension.


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