Chat Transcripts: International Talks – Community Colleges and Global Recruiting

moderator:  Good afternoon, welcome to Diverse: Issues In Higher Education’s “International Talks” Web Chat. Today, we’ll be discussing increased efforts by many community colleges to recruit international students and the subsequent rising enrollment numbers of these students at two-year colleges.

moderator:  Is this trend good exposure for international students and their classmates as well as a welcome boost to two-year colleges’ bottom lines? 

moderator:  Or does this trend mean community colleges are abandoning their open-access community-driven missions as they continue to emulate four-year schools? 

moderator:  Or is it both? Or somewhere in between? We’ll have our expert panel weigh in and we’ll also invite chat participants to give us their perspectives.

moderator:  Today’s panel includes Ken Bus, director of the International Education Program at Glendale Community College of Arizona; Dr. Miguel Ceja, assistant professor of public policy and administration at California State University-Sacramento; Dr. Stephen Curtis, president of the Community College of Philadelphia; and Judith Irwin, director of International Programs and Services at the American Association of Community Colleges. My name is David Pluviose, I cover community colleges as a senior writer for Diverse. 

 moderator:  Let’s begin.

moderator:  I would like all of our panelists to say if they’re seeing more international students at their schools, and describe any impact these students are having on their institutions.

Ms._Phd:  Dr. Curtis, why do you think the US Dept of Education and State Dept are promoting community college recruitment of international students? What’s in it for us, the US?

Dr_Curtis:  To Ms._Phd: Community colleges are a more affordable option for visiting international students, just as for U.S. students. Community colleges provide an articulated bridge to baccalaureate institutions, again just as for local students. International students fit my institution well: my college reflects the diversity of Philadelphia and seeks to root Philadelphians in the global nature of our local (and U.S.) issues.

Ms._Phd:  We know that India and China are the biggest senders to the US of international students. On the community college front, what are the numbers like for students from Africa, South and Central America? Do you think community colleges, with their history of open access, present a good opportunity for international students from these traditionnally under-represented countries to get an education?

Ken_Bus:  At this time China and India are the biggest senders of students to the USA, but most of the students from these two countires are graduate students, many of whom are receiving assistantships and fellowships to work on research projects. That’s not the case at community colleges. We do not offer any forms of financial aid, so students need to have financial resources to come here to study in a community college. 

Marie:  Dr. Ceja, I know your research shows that community colleges in Cali are doing a poor job of gradudating Black and Latino students. Do you have any research on how well community colleges graduate international students?

Dr_Ceja:  we haven’t looked at international students specifically to know what their graduation rates are. CA is, however doing a poor job with latinos and blacks. some recent work, shows a 24% completion rate for all students over 6 years and only 18% for latinos and 15% for blacks

Ms._Phd:  We know that India and China are the biggest senders to the US of international students. On the community college front, what are the numbers like for students from Africa, South and Central America? Do you think community colleges, with their history of open access, present a good opportunity for international students from these traditionnally under-represented countries to get an education?

Dr_Curtis:  At my college (Philadelphia), Vietnam and Korea are the two largest sources for international students. One way we are cultivating students from underrrepresented countries is to send our own students there for study abroad. We have done so in Mexico, Costa Rica,

Marie:  Can the panelists walk us through what a community college needs to do to get started in terms of recruiting and serving international students? Don’t colleges need to be certified and what all is involved?

Ken_Bus:  To respond to Marie’s question, yes, any educational institution in the USA that wants to enroll nonimmigrant foreign students must get permission to do so from the US Citizenship and Information Service (USCIS). In order to do so the college or university must have certain services in place. Once approved by USCIS, the college can issue the I-20 documents that foreign students need to apply for a visa. Generally speaking, most community colleges in the USA are eligible to apply for this kind of permission as long as they are accredited. 

Marie:  Dr. Ceja, do you know if community colleges are offering more or better services to international students than Black and Latino students?

Dr_Ceja:  there is evidence that community colleges nationally are offering increased services/programs for international students, however, i wouldn’t say that this trend has reached a point where more institutional services are going to these students as opposed to latino or black students 

Ms._Phd:  We know that India and China are the biggest senders to the US of international students. On the community college front, what are the numbers like for students from Africa, South and Central America? Do you think community colleges, with their history of open access, present a good opportunity for international students from these traditionnally under-represented countries to get an education?

Judith_Irwin:  Approximately 22% of international students going to community colleges originate from Latin America, with 11% originating from Africa. Yes, community colleges offer wonderful benefits for these students in the form of lower tuition costs, smaller classes with faculty teaching the classes, not graduate students, and opportunities to learn English. 

moderator:  Many community colleges campuses, by definition, are highly diverse. What started this overseas recruiting trend?

Judith_Irwin:  Community colleges are not necessarily diverse unless their community is diverse. In any case, international students bring a different type of diversity–an opportunity to students in the U.S. to meet, intereact, and learn from international students about their culture, etc. 

Marie(C)  Are community colleges responsible for providing housing for international students?

Pat_from_IUPUI:  What can 4-year, research universities, etc. do to facilitate transfer from CCs?

Dr_Curtis:  Re 4-year schools, most of us have written articulation agreements with numerous receiving institutions. My college has 90+ such agreements, and we are aggressively moving toward dual admission agreements (8 in hand) that offer even broader, less discipline-based opportunities.

moderator:  I would like all of our panelists to say if they’re seeing more international students at their schools, and describe any impact these students are having on their institutions.

Ken_Bus:  At Glendale Community College in the Phoenix area we have seen an increase in international student enrollments over the years. It reached a peak just before the events of 9-11, and is now making a comeback to those historic levels. The impact is seen as very favorable. These students are no more than 1% of the student body, but they are outstanding students and have contributed to the diversity of the campus community. Faculty really appreciate having them in their classes to add a global perspective. And the students distinguish themselves in academics, sports, music, clubs, and community volunteerism. 

Ms._Phd:  Dr. Curtis, do you have a lot of African and South and Central American students?

Dr_Curtis:  My earlier response: 50 percent of our international students are from Asia. Through faculty development initiatives (Merida, Mexico), AACC-organized recruitment trips, and our own study abroad, we’re trying to increase African and Latin American numbers.

Jackie:  Dr. Ceja, what type of funding resources are available for US students and faculty to engage in international assignments/projects and where could I locate these funding sources?

Dr_Ceja:  at my campus, we have an internal program that allows faculty the opportunity and resources to engage in international work. besides this, typically faculty seek out and inquire directly with those international institutions that they would like to become involved with. 

moderator:  Why are overseas students attracted to community colleges?

Judith_Irwin:  Because they offer lower tuition, smaller classes, with a focus on teaching, excellent Intensive English programs, an opportunity to transfer coursework to a university, use of the latest technologies, and students can get an additional year of Optional Practical Training–one after an Associates degree (2 year college) and one after a University degree (4 year college/university)

moderator:  Many community colleges campuses, by definition, are highly diverse. What started this overseas recruiting trend?

Ken_Bus:  This trend is fueled by demand. We have seen an enormous increase in interest from overseas. And the local ethnic communities, the immigrants and permanent residents who have settled here, are also coming into our office on a daily basis requesting information to send to their friends and relatives “back home.”

Marie:  I see my question, but not an answer. Are community colleges responsible for providing housing for international students?

Dr_Curtis:  The majority of our international students (Philly) already have local contacts who facilitate the housing search. We provide some assistance with searches, but few students have needed much assistance to date. 

rsquare:  What does the research show with regard to international students pursuing four-year degrees following the completion of the two-year degree from U.S. community colleges?

Judith_Irwin:  There is no definitive research since many international students do a year of Optional Practical Training after they complete their two-year degree and the college may or may not be able to track their next steps. Or students might go back to their country first and then come back to complete their university degree. However, if most community colleges know their international student transfer data, and AACC could obtain that, we would have more information to share.

moderator:  How can community colleges continue to effectively serve their local population while reaching out to international students? Are limited resources being stretched too far at the expense of two-year colleges’ core constituency?

Dr_Ceja:  certainly, in a time of fiscal difficulties, decisions about how to most efficiently serve their local communities will have to be balanced by the demand that is being placed on the community college by multiple factors, including a greater demand by international students. at the same time, certain populations of foreign students tend to migrate to specific communities and thus they become over time, part of the community that colleges already outreach to. 

Marie:  Does Ms. Irwin know the success rate for international students? What percentage graduates? What percentage go on to four-year schools?

Judith_Irwin:  I just responded to a similar question but in case you didn’t see my response, we don’t know the success rates. Each college has that information but AACC doesn’t track it. Regarding how many go on to 4-year schools, that’s also something we don’t track. Each college may or may not know the information depending on when the student transfers (immediately, after a year of OPT, or later). 

Ms._Phd:  How much of an investment is needed to get started? Do we have to hire international recruiters? 

Dr_Curtis:  The investment we made first wasn’t for recruitment, it was for infrastructure support: a full-time coordinator for international students enrolled here. Our first priority is to help international students be successful with us. We spend some $ on recruitment, but higher-than-local tuition charges (mandated by the state) quickly covers those costs.

Ms._Phd:  Ken, after certification, what happens next? What do CCs looking to do this have to consider next?

Ken_Bus:  I will respond to both of your questions, if you don’t mind. First it does not require much of an investment, though the government does charge a fee for getting registered to issue I-20s through the SEVIS (Student & Exchange Visitor Information System). You should contact your local NAFSA: Association of International Educators representative in your state to find out how to get started. You don’t need to recruit overseas. I think having a good website devoted to international recruiting should be the first priority. Then you can add advertising to begin to get your school’s name out there.

rsquare:  Is there evidence that international students who earn two-year degrees from U.S. community colleges eventually end up in U.S. grad programs?

Judith_Irwin:  Community college alumni include Eileen Collins (Space Shuttle Commander)

Ms._Phd:  Dr. Curtis, is the US government providing incentives for community colleges to recruit overseas, such as special grants?

Dr_Curtis:  There was one recent grant program, an initiative stemming from a community college summit. It made $3 million available through CCID. But, in general, most of us don’t have access to such federal $.

rsquare:  What does the research show with regard to international students pursuing four-year degrees following the completion of the two-year degree from U.S. community colleges?

Dr_Ceja:  unfortunately, there is very little national data that gives us a clear indication of the matriculation of international students and their pursuit of 4-year degrees i think, as judith irwin, indicated, individual institutions might track this data, but collectively, i don’t think we know enough about the pathways of international students

 

moderator:  How can community colleges continue to effectively serve their local population while reaching out to international students? Are limited resources being stretched too far at the expense of two-year colleges’ core constituency?

Ken_Bus:  In the model that we have in place, the out of state surcharge that foreign students pay overn and above in-state tuition is used to fund international activities on the campus. The program pays for itself and spins off enough revenue to cover a lot of other campus events that would not be possible in these tight budget times. So the net effect is a plus for the local community and domestic students. 

moderator:  I’d like to open up the floor for comments from chat room participants. Please type a question/comment and click “Ask.”

Pat_from_IUPUI:  Dr. Curtis: Presumably, in dual degree arrangements, the students must meet the admission standards of both the CC and the transfer institutuion, right? 

Dr_Curtis:  Yes, but all that is worked out in the agreement. They are advised by both schools along the way. The awarding of the associate degree assures junior status, fulfillment of gen ed requirements, etc.

curious(C)  Am I the only one who thinks community colleges are moving away from their tradtitional students? They really need to do a better job of educating the students they have already.

Garrett:  Are the international students we are talking about coming here with a specific major? If so, would it not make sense that they are recuited by 4 year institutions and we recruit through them as better valued alternative. Or are these students backing their decision to study in the US based on a community colleges’ reputation?

Ken_Bus:  In our case, many of the students coming here know that they will transfer to the state university (ASU) after completing an AA degree or equivalent. If they maintain a certain GPA then they are more or less guaranteed admission to the university.

Pat_from_IUPUI(C)  To curious: We have a large state CC system that has recently begun offering 4year degrees. Our faculty worked with their faculty to make sure the courses we transfer are equivalent. This has been going on for about 15 years and we are delighted with the transfers to our campus. 

Ken_Bus(C)  To Curious: Doing a better job of educating all students might include educating them about the global community we find ourselves in. 

Pat_from_IUPUI(C)  As a University rep, I would be reluctant to spend recruitment dollars to recruit for a CC with the hope they would later come to my U.

moderator:  Critics of the increased trend of international students enrolling in community colleges say academically struggling Black and Hispanic students will inevitably be worst affected as scarce resources are redirected towards accommodating more students from overseas. How can community colleges make sure these at-risk students don’t fall through the cracks as they eye the benefits of enrolling international students?

Dr_Ceja:  given the poor rates of success experienced by many latino and blacks students it is clear that institutions can certainly do more to ensure that students are successfully moving thru the pipeline towards program completion or transfer. some institutions, as was mentioned earlier, use the additional fee revenue paid by international students to fund their programs. in these cases the issue of fiscal resources is not as significant. however, if and when, general institutional funds are being redirected towards these programs, then institutions do run the risk of reducing the support needed by students who have experienced difficulty moving thru the pipeline.

moderator:  From Dr. Curtis: I don’t think we’re moving away from “traditional” students at all. The number of international students for most of us is a small percentage of the whole, at best. I can’t overemphasize, however, that everything we do must prepare our students to have a truly global perspective. An internationalization effort (more than just international students) is critical.

moderator:  Critics of the increased trend of international students enrolling in community colleges say academically struggling Black and Hispanic students will inevitably be worst affected as scarce resources are redirected towards accommodating more students from overseas. How can community colleges make sure these at-risk students don’t fall through the cracks as they eye the benefits of enrolling international students?

Ken_Bus:  No one needs to suffer or give up their place at the table when international students are added to the campus population. In fact, having them present will inevitably enrich the experience of all students, including minorities. 

moderator:  From Dr. Curtis: On the question of performance, I think international students in Philly compete, persist and graduate at better-than-overall rates for the student body as a whole. They pursue , by and large, transfer curricula.

Dr_Ceja(C)  ultimately, institutions need to figure out how to elevate the success of all students, including international students, low income students and students of color. once in the community college, international students will undoubtly faced similar challenges (movement thru basic skills, financial difficulties, etc…)

Pat_from_IUPUI(C)  In general I agree with Ken Bus; however, I think student service units must always work hard to make sure that international and domestic students interact and the benefits of having international students are realized by the domestic students.

moderator:  How can community colleges continue to effectively serve their local population while reaching out to international students? Are limited resources being stretched too far at the expense of two-year colleges’ core constituency?

Dr_Curtis:  I don’t think resources are an issue here. For most of us, state mandates require doubling or tripling normal tuition rates for international (i.e., out-of-state) students. Often that makes international student enrollment a revenue generator, not a revenue diminisher. It’s not the main reason to recruit international students, but it means that resources are not pulled away from local students.

steve_bennett:  The world is a big place and funds for recruiting are limited. Do you have suggestions on how a college might design a 3-5 year strategy for recruiting? How to determine which which countries are best? What form of recruiting is best, website, publications, visits, etc.

Ken_Bus:  Steve, the first part of your question is the key here–you can’t do it all and you can’t use a shotgun approach to recruit the whole world. So be limited, smart, and focussed in your approach. What is the demand from your own community? Where are the immigrants from? Focus on the places you know have the potential to grow and bring in more students. Start with the basic: a good website, attractive recruiting materials to mail out. Be pro-active with e-mail contacts. I check my overseas in-basket e-mail every day and respond to all questions immediately. Prospective students are impressed by a college that looks like it knows what it’s doing!

moderator:  Why are overseas students attracted to community colleges?

Ken_Bus:  From my experience there are several factors that lead students to our door: ease of application, ESL programs, transferability of credits, low tuition cost, and the chance to live with relatives in the local area while attending school.

curious(C)  I get the idea that US students would benefit from international students. I think these colleges should investigate whether their international students are doing better than regular students and ask themselves why. 

moderator:  This chat will be open for 7 more minutes. I urge participants to get their final questions to the moderator as soon as possible. Thanks.

Garrett:  Are the international students we are talking about coming here with a specific major? If so, would it not make sense that they are recuited by 4 year institutions and we recruit through them as better valued alternative. Or are these students backing their decision to study in the US based on a community colleges’ reputation?

Dr_Curtis:  Our international students know what field they’re interested in before coming here. In some cases they know of my institution, but that’s because of a friend or family member already in Philadelphia. In other cases, they arrive in Philly (often because of local contacts in their respective communities), then find out about my college–especially the cost advantage.

moderator2(C)  From “Chispas” Our International Student Association has many non international student members. All participate in activities such as Spring Break Retreat and other trips and events and make very close friendships.

Pat_from_IUPUI(C)  to Curious: I have worked with international students for more than 30 years. Consistently, research shows that international students as a group perform at higher levels than domestic students. I believe that is because they come better prepared from secondary school and have a stronger “hard work” ethic than domestic students as a group.  

Pat_from_IUPUI:  What can 4-year, research universities, etc. do to facilitate transfer from CCs?

Dr_Ceja:  greater articulation between the institutions would help. In CA there was an effort to create common articulation numbers between 4-year and 2-year colleges. this effort was cut short as a result of budgetary decisions. additionally, greater direct recruitment by 4-year colleges would help as well. i think there’s a tendency on the part of 4-year colleges to assume that the two year students will come to them. 

Vaninsky:  Is it possible to hear the discussion?

moderator2:  There is no audio component to this chat. 

Ms._Phd:  How much of an investment is needed to get started? Do we have to hire international recruiters? 

Ken_Bus:  You don’t need to create a position just for a recruiter. It is more important to offer all the services that international students need–admission, advising, ESL, counseling, housing, activities, etc. When these things are in place your school’s reputation will grow through word of mouth recruitment.

moderator:  This chat room is now officially closed. I’d like to thank my distinguished panel for sharing their knowledge on the subject of international student enrollment at two-year colleges; this discussing has been informative and engaging.

Dr_Ceja:  thank you.

moderator:  Diverse will be posting a transcript of this chat online at diverseeducation.com shortly, please check back soon. Thank you all, and have a great afternoon.

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