International students are an important aspect of higher education and contribute greatly to college funding and to the US economy. The US has seen an increase in international student enrollment every year, though growth has slowed. Most international students come to the US to get an undergraduate degree: 439,019 at the undergraduate level versus 391,124 at the graduate level. An interesting thing to note is that while the number of students seeking Associate’s degrees has dropped, the number of international students enrolling into Associate level institutions has risen.


Community colleges across the US have seen a rise in international students over the last 4-5 years. The number of international students enrolled at community colleges increased significantly between 2005/06 to 2008/09 reaching a peak of 95,785 students before seeing a small decline. The numbers started to increase again in 2012/13.  As of the 2016/2017 school year, there were a total of 96,472 enrolled at a community college surpassing the 2008/09 peak.


More and more community colleges are ramping up their recruitment and support to international students. There are many great benefits community colleges can offer international students these include: cheaper tuition, easier transition, and more OPT opportunities if they obtain an Associates before transferring. Because community colleges are more cost effective, they can be great recruitment pipelines for four-year universities. Four-year universities that have transfer pathways or partnerships with local community colleges benefit from an increase in international student enrollment at the community college level.  


With rising concerns about tuition costs and more community college actively recruiting international students, we may see more international students opting to go to two-year institutions before transfering to a four-year. Perhaps a joint effort between four-year universities and local community colleges can help drive more growth and enrollment for international education. What do you think?


By Ashleigh Cue