Community College and ESL Programs for International Students
A Viable Alternative to University
Let me admit that until rather recently I had been a university snob, certain that only a big-name university could provide the type of comprehensive education required to survive in tomorrow’s world. Surely, any other educational institution must be second-rate, not quite up to par. Community colleges cater only to losers, don’t they?
Now that I am employed at a community college and have had the opportunity to attend American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) workshops and conferences, I’ve removed my blinders and am now seeing community colleges in a completely different light. These institutions serve a large and increasingly diverse segment of the population and with good reason.
As the reality of a worldwide recession starts to hit home, many high-fliers who have children attending international schools around the globe may find themselves in the position of no longer being able to afford that big-name university with the $40,000 annual tuition and are seeking less expensive alternatives. Many parents in this category might just dismiss the notion of their child attending a community college without getting past their ingrained idea of what these institutions are like.
Community colleges are actually an attractive alternative to the first two years at a major university for a number of reasons. First of all, they are considerably more affordable than universities. The cost of a typical community college ranges from $11,000-$25,000 annually. These figures include tuition, room, board, insurance, books, supplies and miscellaneous expenses. Community college can save parents at least $50,000 during the first two years of their child’s academic career. Upon graduation, students will find that articulation agreements will facilitate their transfer from the community college to those universities with which the community college has such an agreement.
Secondly, community college can provide that same nurturing atmosphere and the same personalized instruction as students experienced at international schools. Students who have been living abroad might not be ready to attend huge universities, where they are likely to be only a number, and where their “professors” often turn out to be teaching assistants. Because faculty at community colleges are not under the “publish or perish” yoke, they are able to spend their time teaching and mentoring students. Classes are generally small, much as they are at international schools, and so teachers can readily notice a student’s academic strengths and weaknesses and tailor instruction to suit that student.
A further reason for choosing community college is the safety factor. Students who have lived abroad for a length of time, especially those in Japan, have little notion of personal safety and are liable not to be street savvy when they return to the US. The smaller campuses, particularly in small towns and in rural settings, tend to be safer than a university situated in the inner city.
As far as diversity is concerned, the average community college is quite a collage of different backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. People of all socioeconomic stripes are accepted to become part of this educational mélange; hence students who have been accustomed to interacting within a limited stratum of society are exposed to new ideas and diverse ways of thinking, thus challenging them and ultimately expanding their horizons.
Finally, students graduate from community college with their Associates degree. In some cases, they are able to transfer directly to a major university for the remainder of their college career, or they are able to go directly into the workforce, particularly if they have gone through demanding Nursing or Dental Hygiene programs.
All in all, community college is a prudent, fiscally sound alternative to big-name universities in the US.