Community Colleges in USA: An emerging option for International Students in the US
Updated on Jan 6, 2015 - 5:34 p.m. IST by Sudipta Mishra #United States of America
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Community Colleges in USA
, colloquially known as Junior Colleges, are public institutions offering two-year associate’s degree. They mould and prepare students for either a Bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution in the USA by offering non-credit programmes or a job by imparting workforce development and skills training.

What are Community Colleges in USA?

The Community or Junior Colleges in the US are originally local colleges that are public, private or tribal in nature. They were started to prevent distance being the obstacle for people aspiring for a higher education. These colleges are termed differently in different regions based on their governance system and reach: Junior Colleges, City Colleges, etc. Gradually these colleges became a boon for women due to their accessibility and the students were eligible to be teachers at grammar schools. The Community Colleges in USA are governed by the state, locally by the local community, by the faculty through a senate or council, by the students, or can be governed by multiple stakeholders. Their source of revenue can be federal, state, local, tuition or private in nature.

HoustonCourses offered by Community Colleges in USA

Although the Junior Colleges in USA started by providing the associate degree, today they offer a variety of programmes:

  • Associate Degree: The Associate Degrees offered by Junior Colleges in the US provide education in core curriculum of a subject area. The course is tailored as per the requirement of pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in that field at a four-year university or enter a job that requires some level of college education but not necessarily a Bachelor’s degree. After pursuing the Associate Degree, students can either go for a job or join a four-year college in the third year of a related Bachelor’s degree.
  • Certification:  Community Colleges offer certified training to candidates preparing for a state or national examination. They also provide certification programmes to students that will give them hiring preference or a higher salary while entering the work force. Few examples of these training areas are nursing, computer repair, allied health, welding, firefighting, etc.
  • Local Services: Community Colleges offer a number of local services that cater to their locality. Services like student newspaper, orchestra and other community enrichment and cultural activities, adult continuing classes, diplomas for high school dropouts and various extra-curricular programmes are offered by these colleges.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: A number of Community Colleges in the US have started offering Bachelor’s degree as well. They might offer these programmes independently or in conjunction with other colleges.
Few Community Colleges with good volume of international students:
  • Houston Community College, Texas
  • Santa Monica College, California
  • Lone Star College, Texas
  • De Anza College, California
  • Montgomery College, Maryland
  • Green River Community College, Washington

Advantages of Community Colleges in USA for Domestic and International Students

Community Colleges in the US are an access point for education in a town, especially for women and the poor who cannot travel far or migrate for higher studies alone. They also serve as a catalyst for economic development. Community or Junior Colleges offer essential education to the larger workforce who cannot afford four-year colleges and make them skilled. They satisfy the economy’s need for an educated workforce.

Other than these benefits, there are various aspects of USA Community Colleges that are now-a-days attracting international students as well. The major pluses that international students gain from Junior Colleges in USA are:

  • Affordability: Community Colleges are quite economical than the four-year colleges. If a student completes his first two years in Junior Colleges and the next two in a four-year college, the study expense will be much less than the student pursuing a full-time Bachelor’s degree from a regular four-year university. While the annual average tuition and fees at a public Community College in the US is approximately around  $3,250, a year of a Bachelor’s Degree at a public four-year college roughly costs $8,900.
  • Open-door, open-access policies: Community Colleges have less strict admission policies than their neighbouring four-year universities. Their requirements related to academics, examination scores, extra-curricular factors etc. are relaxed. The examination score requirement related to English Language Proficiency is also lower than the four-year colleges and universities. Many Community Colleges with a higher volume of international students offer English Proficiency programmes that strengthen students’ skills when they apply to four-year colleges.
  • Relationships with four-year colleges and universities: A number of Junior Colleges in USA have associations with neighboring four-year colleges and universities, some of which guarantee admission to Community College graduates.
  • Focused programme offerings: If the students’ goal is to become certified in a field, or get a two-year associate’s degree instead of a bachelor’s degree, a Community College education is suggested. Not only the specialized degree makes the student more competitive but also smaller classes and a more dedicated faculty ensures a better learning.
  • Athletic programmes: Most of the US Community Colleges either offer athletic programmes or are largely sanctioned and governed by the National Junior College Athletic Association. Talented players who do not meet the academic or athletic standards of a major college programme get a chance to play for two years in Junior College, establishing an academic record in the process, and then transfer to the major college.

MontgomeryThings to Remember before applying for Community Colleges in USA

  • Determine your academic goals: Students who aim at continuing with Bachelor’s degree post passing out of the Community Colleges should research on the volume of past transfers from the concerned college to any four-year university or college. Some of the Junior Colleges in USA have a track record of regular feeds for Bachelor’s programmes at four-year colleges.
  • Accreditation: Community Colleges in the US that are accredited provide quality education, and their credits are more likely to be accepted and their courses have a higher probability of being transferred to four-year universities.
  • Programmes provided: Certain Community Colleges in the US provide special programmes for international students as a result of which they are preferred more.
  • Infrastructural facilities: Some Community Colleges have better facilities than others. Students should research on services like accommodation, library, etc that are offered by the concerned colleges.
  • Faculty: A number of Community Colleges in USA employ mostly temporary faculty so as to cut down expenses. As a result of the quality of education at these colleges is compromised.

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