By Kenneth Bus Community College Times
February 18, 2003
Under the banner of the AACC, community colleges are traveling together to distant parts of the world to spread the news about America’s best-kept secret in higher education, getting the attention of international students, advisors, and even ministries of education as they offer superior programs, open admission policies, low-cost tuition, and easy access to the nation’s higher education system.
In November 2002, AACC and a group of community college representatives from across the country traveled to Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, and Thailand. This was the second AACC-sponsored trip to Asia and it proved to be highly successful, informative, and worthwhile for the colleges that participated. The AACC International Recruitment Fair proved that a group of community colleges can travel together and attract committed, interested students motivated to embark on their U.S. education using community colleges as a springboard. Colleges from upstate New York, the Midwest, Texas, California, the Rocky Mountain States, the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest attended.
Some features of the tour included: advance publicity and advertising in each city; receptions with education officials and advisors; weekend fairs at popular venues; bilingual interpreters assigned to every college’s fair booth or table; briefings by host country experts and U.S. consulate officers; and two full-time tour leaders.
There are numerous reasons for community college representatives to participate in recruiting trips with their colleagues from across the nation, such as:
1. Colleges can do “armchair” recruiting or Internet recruiting or print advertising or the old reliable word of mouth method, but visiting the countries your students come from gives you a substantial leg up on the competition.
2. Traveling in and out of airports with a passport and baggage will give real insight into the experiences our students have when they travel to the United States—in most cases you won’t need a visa or an I-20, but you will fill out the equivalent of an I-94 prior to landing and at the end of the trip you will see U.S. Immigration in a whole new light.
3. Colleges learn about the education systems of the countries from which you draw students. This is invaluable, firsthand data that you and your admissions staff can use to evaluate documents, credentials, and even schools in other countries. Having recently received an admissions application from an international student, I now know that even students with average or even mediocre grades from a private international school emerge from a rigorous education system.
4. Traveling together allows you to develop strong ties to your community college colleagues in other parts of the U.S. and to share ideas, experiences, and observations. You’ll learn that community colleges all across the country face similar challenges in attracting and serving international students while learning about successes and failures in recruiting students, their marketing ideas, and the way their international program is structured.
5. Colleges develop a stronger bond with AACC as an advocacy group and a partner in the promotion of the community college agenda around the world.
6. You’ll learn about the history, language, religion, culture, economics, and politics of vast regions of the world, helping you to better serve your students. When students come to ask for your help getting a work permit because their currency has dropped in value, you’ll understand because you have been to their country and had the experience of exchanging your dollars for their money.
7. Most importantly, you will have a chance to meet face-to-face with prospective students (and their parents) who are already interested in attending a community college without competing with well-known, big name universities. The students you encounter are for the most part savvy, sophisticated shoppers looking for ways to improve their command of English, earn general education credits, save money, and access state of the art facilities.
AACC has focused on the international student market in Asia—a wise choice given realities of economic vitality, demand for education, and the post-9/11 geopolitical situation. But to keep pushing the envelope, AACC will inevitably need to venture into new markets with new challenges and opportunities. To do so will require the support and participation of more two-year colleges from every state and region of the country. The community college message of universal access and diversity must continue to be spread.
Ken Bus is Director of International Students Program at Glendale Community College, Glendale, Arizona.