COMMUNITY COLLEGES IN THE UNITED STATES
According to American Association of Community Colleges, around 50% students entering into post-secondary education, study at community colleges and 43% students pursuing 4-year bachelor degree are transferred from 2-year community colleges.
Community colleges offer two-year programs leading to the Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree. These colleges also have technical and vocational programs with close links to secondary/high schools, community groups, and employers in the local community. You can find large community colleges with multiple campuses in an urban/suburban setting or small campuses in a rural setting.
International (as well as American) students study in community colleges for the following reasons:
1. The annual cost of study in the community colleges is much cheaper, one-third or half of the cost of a 4-year college.
2. The Two Plus Two Program: Students may study two years in a community college to get an Associate degree and then transfer to a 4-Year institution to study the next two years to obtain an Undergraduate or Bachelor’s degree. Almost all community colleges have articulations with a number of 4-year colleges/universities. Each community college provides the list of 4-year colleges it has signed an articulation with. Students get some advantage when transferring to those 4-year colleges which are listed.
3. The admission process is simple and easier than 4-year institutions
4. Some students find it easier to attend community college primarily to get some additional training to enhance their English language proficiency, to save money and also to learn about the new academic system before they move to 4-year colleges.
5. Community colleges also offer job oriented associate degree or certificate program, such as automobile engineering, hospital administration, culinary science, computer application etc. Many community colleges have state-of-the-art facilities like the 4-year institutions. Students may hone their technical skills (as well as soft skills) which help them with their career goals.
When international students plan to choose community colleges to pursue higher studies in the U.S. it is important to consider the below pointers:
1. Think of a career plan and ways in which an associate degree may help to achieve academic as well as career goals
2. Keep in mind the desired field of study while choosing core courses at a chosen community college
3. Pay attention to the requirements of the 4-year colleges a student is interested to get transferred to (after the 2 year associate degree) such as, taking the recommended core courses at the community college which are mandatory as transfer requirements; maintaining an expected academic performance in order to be eligible for the chosen 4-year college (based on the competitiveness of 4-year colleges)
4. Maintain an expected GPA in associate degree, even though transfer may not be a guarantee
5. Generally, community colleges do not offer financial aid to international students
6. Justify the reasons for choosing to study at a community college during the U.S. Visa interview