EducationUSA Interactive: Community Colleges

EducationUSA Interactive: Community Colleges


[MUSIC PLAYING] MR. ALFRED BOLL: Good morning,
and good evening to our viewers joining us from
around the world. My name is Alfred Boll, and
I represent EducationUSA and the Bureau of Educational
and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of
State in Washington DC. Today’s Facebook Live is
about community colleges and why international students
should consider community colleges as an attractive
option when looking to study in the United States. Our goal at EducationUSA is
to help international students identify the American college or
university where they are best placed for success,
and community colleges are an excellent option
for many students. There are over 550
EducationUSA advisors in 181 countries and territories
around the world offering free advising services to
help you identify a school and to help you navigate
the admissions process. There are over 4,700 accredited
U.S. colleges and universities, and EducationUSA
promotes all of them. I’m excited to introduce
our guest speakers who have a wealth of knowledge
on community colleges and who can tell us about what
is known as the two plus two model. Joining us virtually
is Dawn Wood. Dawn is the dean of
international programs at Kirkwood Community College
in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She has over 20
years of experience in international education. Welcome, Dawn. MS. DAWN WOOD: Thank you. MR. BOLL: Welcome. Thank you. Joining me here in our
studio is Wayne Wheeler. Wayne represents the U.S.
community college sector through his work at the
American Association of Community Colleges. As the director of AACC’s
international office, he develops initiatives
that help advocate for community colleges. Welcome, Wayne. MR. WAYNE WHEELER: Thank you. MR. BOLL: Also joining me
here is Edward Tatchim. Edward is an international
student from Cameroon. He just graduated from Prince
George’s Community College in Maryland with an associate’s
degree in computer science. In the fall, he will attend
the University of Maryland, College Park to pursue a
bachelor’s degree in computer science. Welcome, Edward. MR. EDWARD TATCHIM: Thank you. MR. BOLL: During
the program, we will be answering questions live
from all of you on Facebook. So if you have
questions you would like to ask any of our
speakers, please post them at any time during this program
in the comments section below. Wayne, I wonder if you
could start our discussion by giving us an overview
of community colleges. There are over 1,000 community
colleges in the United States. How are they different from
traditional universities? MR. WHEELER: Well,
community colleges were established
over 100 years ago to bring higher education
into the local community to educate as many
citizens as possible. Today, about half of all
undergraduates in the U.S. are enrolled at
community colleges. MR. BOLL: That’s incredible. MR. WHEELER: They provide
great opportunities, not only for
international students, but also domestic students. Actually, the largest percentage
of international students who come to the U.S. in pursuit
of an undergraduate education are enrolled at
community colleges. Last year, it was a
little more than 94,000 international students. MR. BOLL: Wow. That’s incredible. So why would a student
choose a community college? MR. WHEELER: There are
many community colleges spread across the United States,
but they have a common mission. And one important
part of that is that they provide the first
two years of a university education. And they provide that at a very
affordable cost; much lower than they would have
to pay at a four year college or university. A high quality education
for a lower cost. MR. BOLL: Got it. So that’s a major factor. And then there’s also what
is known as the two plus two model. MR. WHEELER: Yes. MR. BOLL: Why would a student
choose a community college thinking about
going on after that? MR. WHEELER: Yes. As I stated, they provide
the first two years of a university education. And then after that, the student
can take their course credits and transfer them to a four
year college or university. And to make that process
seamless, community colleges every community
college in the nation has articulation
agreements with four year colleges and universities to
make that a smooth process. So that when the student
gets to the four year college or university,
they start as a junior, they do two additional years,
their junior and senior year, to get a bachelor’s degree
from that institution, the same degree as if they had
started at that institution as a freshman. MR. BOLL: But they’ve done two
years at a community college, which was a different
institution, a different experience,
and more economical. MR. WHEELER: More affordable. MR. BOLL: Got it. OK. Can students at a
community college do things like optional
practical training? Which is something that
many students look for. MR. WHEELER: Yes. That’s a great benefit
for international students because, after getting
their associate degree, they can get an
additional one year of optional practical training. They wouldn’t be able to get
that if they went to a four year college or a university. They would get it after
their bachelors degree. But if they started
community college, they can get it after
their associate’s degree, then also after their
bachelor’s degree. MR. BOLL: OK. One quick question. Is every student
guaranteed entrance into a four year college or are
there some conditions on that? MR. WHEELER: There
are some conditions. There are articulation
agreements, as I mentioned. There are articulation
agreements. A lot of community colleges
also have guaranteed admission agreements. And so there are terms
to these agreements that students must meet. They should check with
their college counselors to make sure that
they are meeting the terms for the institution
that they wish to transfer to. A lot of community colleges, as
well as four year institutions now, have on their websites
lists of their transfer partners. So an international
student, if they know which four year
college or university they wish to transfer to, they can
look at that institution’s website and look to see which
community colleges are transfer partners. Likewise, they can look on
the community college website to see which four
year institutions are transfer partners. But it’s important
that they meet the terms of those agreements
because, without meeting those terms, some course
credits can transfer, but they stand the risk that
some of their course credits may not transfer. MR. BOLL: I see. So it’s the transferring,
and I assume there are also like
GPA grade point grades that they have to get
under most agreements to be able to transfer. MR. WHEELER: Yes, absolutely. MR. BOLL: OK. So a reason to work hard
at college no matter what. MR. WHEELER: Absolutely. MR. BOLL: OK. Excellent. Equality is still a big
part of the American higher education in all sectors. MR. WHEELER: Yes. MR. BOLL: OK. Excellent. Thank you very much. I know one additional question
our viewers must be thinking about is, for
international students who are considering applying
to a community college, are there any
scholarship opportunities at community colleges? MR. WHEELER: Most
community colleges don’t provide scholarships
to incoming students. One exception to that are
athletic scholarships. Some community
colleges participate in competitive sports and they
may offer athletic scholarships to incoming students. And to find out
more about those, the students should
check with the college because there are some
restrictions and requirements that the college has to meet in
providing those scholarships. After the first year
at a community college, many community colleges provide
merit-based scholarships based on how well the student
does during the first year. And then upon graduation, there
are many transfer scholarships that are provided by four
year colleges and universities to well performing
community college students. MR. BOLL: OK. Very interesting. So students should check a
community college’s website to get information about
articulation agreements, about possible scholarships,
and then about merit-based scholarships– MR. WHEELER: Yes. MR. BOLL: After the first year. So again, another reason
to work hard and do well. MR. WHEELER: Yes. And for the transfer
scholarships, they really should
look at the website of Phi Theta Kappa, which is
the community college honor society. And actually, they are
an affiliated council of the American Association
of Community Colleges. So students can go to
our association website and click on the link
for Phi Theta Kappa to look at the transfer
of scholarships that are available. MR. BOLL: Excellent. So transfer scholarships
are another thing. Can’t count on, but they’re
available, they’re competitive. MR. WHEELER: Yes, for
well performing students. MR. BOLL: For well
performing students. Excellent. So academic
excellence is rewarded in all parts of the U.S.
higher education system. MR. WHEELER: Absolutely. MR. BOLL: One way or another. Thank you very much. I’m sure one thing people are
thinking about is housing. What should students
expect in terms of housing at a community college? MR. WHEELER: Many
community colleges don’t have on campus housing. However, they are expert
in providing home stays to international
students, which gives an opportunity for the
student to experience the local culture,
participate in events that are happening in the local
community as well as on campus. It also provides them
with opportunities to hone their English
language skills, if that’s something
that they wish to do. Community colleges also
provide housing, local housing referrals, to
international students. And some of those
arrangements are for dormitory style housing. Some colleges have
those arrangements with housing providers
that have facilities right across the street
from their campus. So it’s not very
far from campus. MR. BOLL: Got it. So while it’s not necessarily
what students are thinking about housing in terms of a four
year institutions dormitories, there are lots of options. And community colleges
think about this. It’s part of their organization
and they take care of students in helping them find housing
that’s appropriate for them. MR. WHEELER: Yes. And in my looking
at the data, it appeared that housing
wasn’t a determining factor for international students also. Because many of our
community colleges that have large numbers
of international students each year don’t have
housing but, like I stated, they have housing options– other housing options
that are attractive to international students. MR. BOLL: Thank you very much. Thank you for sharing such
valuable and interesting information, Wayne. I’d like to turn to you, Dawn. I think it’s the perfect
time to talk about some of the eligibility requirements
for community colleges. Would you be able to tell
us a bit about how it works. MS. WOOD: Absolutely. For international
students who want to come to community colleges,
typically the admission process is much simpler and easier. So sometimes students choose
to come to community college because there’s not a
lot of entrance exams, there’s flexible
language requirements. Many of the community
colleges in the U.S. have an English
language offering, so you can take some ESL
classes to prepare you to enter the regular academic classes. For example, if you
need a high TOEFL to enter the university
of your choice, you might choose to come
to a community college first to improve your English
language proficiency to get up to the level that’s
required for that university that you’d like to go to. MR. BOLL: OK. That’s fantastic. So entrance exams,
English is all different. That’s a lot of
stuff for students to consider in terms
of an attractive way to enter into the
higher education system. Let me turn to you, Edward,
to get your perspective because you are an
international student, you’ve been at a
community college. Can you tell us
about your journey and why you decided to go
to a community college? MR. TATCHIM: Sure. So I am a Yaounde
born Cameroonian. And I came to the United
States in the fall of 2016. And when I came here, I was
searching for affordability and also ease of access. So I chose a community college
because it is very affordable. And in terms of
accessing it, it’s also very close to
where I lived at. MR. BOLL: OK, fantastic. So it was a practical
natural decision. MR. TATCHIM: Yes. MR. BOLL: I hear Prince
George’s Community College chose you to
be the commencement speaker at graduation. MR. TATCHIM: Correct. MR. BOLL: That’s
an amazing honor. MR. TATCHIM: Thank you. MR. BOLL: Now that you’ve
actually graduated from your community college, can
you share your perspective on the benefits of attending
a community college where you were at Prince George’s? MR. TATCHIM: Absolutely. I think for an international
student attending a community college, it’s a great thing
because of the class sizes, first, because the
class sizes are very narrowed down as compared
to a traditional large classroom size. So you would see the ratio
between students and faculty is, I could say, 20 to 1. So you have that relationship
with your faculty. So the class sizes
are one thing. But also you have
that opportunity to experience the culture
because you have many students from across the globe who
meet at a community college and have different cultures
that you get to learn being at a community college. So I would say
being at a community college for two years was a
great experience that I would not exchange for anything. MR. BOLL: So you clearly
bonded with classmates. MR. TATCHIM: Yes, I did. MR. BOLL: I’d like
to hear a little bit about that in terms of
those good relationships, friendships. Do you think you’re
going to key friends that you made at Prince
George’s for life? MR. TATCHIM: Absolutely. And the reason I say
that is because, being in the center of
focus of student life as a student
government president, I got to meet a lot of
students from around the globe. So I made a lot of friendships
and those will last a lifetime. MR. BOLL: OK. You also mentioned
your professors. Tell us a little bit about that. I know that one of the
benefits of a community college is small class sizes. MR. TATCHIM: Right. MR. BOLL: But did
you get– what’s the attention like
from your professors? MR. TATCHIM: So you need to
first look at it this way. You have very experienced
professors who teach you. Now, if you have
that opportunity to be in a small classroom
size with an individual that has this amount of knowledge,
it’s just incredible. So being in a class
with a professor and having to talk to him
about the issues you have with a certain class or a
particular chapter in the class was really interesting. So I am a computer science
student, for example, and let’s say I’m working
on this computer program and there is this code
that I can’t find a bug in. So I would just either
email the professor or just walk straight to his
office during his office hours. Again, he does not have a
lot of students to attend to. So I bonded a lot with
most of my professors. And up to this date, I
talk to most of them. MR. BOLL: OK. That’s fantastic. I’m interested in also
hearing your perspective on the agreement on
the two plus two model because you are an example. You’ve just finished at
Prince George’s and you’re about to move to the
University of Maryland. MR. TATCHIM: Right. MR. BOLL: How did that work? Was that an easy process? MR. TATCHIM: Yes. It was an easy process because
at a community college, you have a chance to
take up to 60 credits general education
classes for the most part and there are articulation
agreements with most four year institutions. So as soon as you get
your associate’s degree at the community college, it’s
easy to transfer to a four year university and continue
there as a junior and complete the rest of
the two years over there. MR. BOLL: Did you know
that you wanted to go to University of Maryland? Were there other options? Where were their
articulation agreements? Or did you have different
options to think about? MR. TATCHIM: I did
have different options to think about. But in terms of priority,
University of Maryland came top on my list. But I also did apply to
the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, also other
states, so Rochester Institute of Technology in New York,
Washington University, Johns Hopkins. So yes, there are
different options. And most of these
four year institutions do have articulation agreements. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. So students also have
to do their homework. At EducationUSA, our
advisors are helping students find the right fit. And so it sounds like when
you leave a community college and you want to
transfer, you still need to think hard about
what’s the right fit for me, where should I go into
a four year institution. MR. TATCHIM: Absolutely. Because again, remember,
this is your future we’re talking about. So if you’re really
interested about what you become at the
end of the day, you have to do
your own homework. So a community college
is a good place to start. But then, in order to move on
to a four year institution, you have to do your research
in terms of scholarships, affordability, location,
and yeah, definitely, a student has a part to play. MR. BOLL: OK. That’s amazing. I know we’re going to come
back to lots of topics. Thank you both. Thank you– sorry–
Dawn as well. So I want to thank
all our panelists for a very insightful
conversation so far. Let’s now take some
questions from our viewers because I think we’re
getting a lot of viewers. So our first viewer
asks, what are my chances of getting admitted
to a community college if my English level
isn’t very high? Dawn, could I turn
to you for that? MS. WOOD: Yes. I think that the chances of
getting admitted to community colleges are very high because
many community colleges offer ESL and do not require a TOEFL
or an IELTS or an entrance exam to begin your studies. So when you arrive with
the lower English level, you can start in language
learning programs that then allow you to easily
transition into the academic programs once you’re ready. So the admission process,
as I mentioned earlier, is set up to be very easy
because community colleges in general are all
about access and wanting to get as many
people in the door to access the education
in English language classes and their academic
classes that we can. Most of the community colleges
have special admissions advisors for
international students that you should connect
with and ask your questions. They’re ready to
help you get started. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. So again, reach out, send
an email, ask a question, don’t be shy. Students around the world use
your EducationUSA advisors to help, but you have
to manage the admissions process yourself. And so it’s great to note here
that community colleges are so open even if students don’t
have a high level of English, that that’s not
at all a barrier. So our next question is, if
I go to a community college, will there be many
international students or will everyone else be
from the United States? That’s a great question. I’d like to ask you, Wayne. MR. WHEELER: Yeah, sure. It really depends on
which community college that you’re looking at. There are some community
colleges which are very large. They have over 100,000
students, but there are some that are very small and
have less than 5,000 students. There are some that have a
lot of international students, but there are some that
have less than 100 or so. So it really depends. And a lot of the
community colleges do have information about
that on their websites. So you can look to see how many
international students they usually have from year to year. And many of them even post where
those students are coming from, how many countries, what
languages they speak, et cetera. MR. BOLL: That’s great. So basically, if a student
is looking for the right fit, she or he should do
the research and they can find these answers. MR. WHEELER: Yes. MR. BOLL: Where students
are coming from? How many? How big the school is? MR. WHEELER: Yes. And at the beginning, I
said that community colleges are the largest,
most diverse sector of U.S. higher education. And part of that is
that a large portion of the immigrant
communities in the U.S. also go to community colleges. Community colleges
are their first choice for higher education. So you will also get
immigrants from a lot of different countries that
are there at community colleges as well. MR. BOLL: Thank you very much. Edward, let me ask you,
just as you actually had this experience. What was Prince George’s like? Just as a snapshot. Lots of international students,
lots of Americans, how– did you meet both? MR. TATCHIM: Yes,
I did meet both. So Prince George’s Community
College I would say was like a melting pot. So you had a lot of
international students but also you had
American born students. So it was a good mix of both
international and American students. MR. BOLL: So I want to
recall one thing too. I learned that you were
student government president. MR. TATCHIM: That’s correct. MR. BOLL: Which is fantastic. Which also indicates
a lot of trust in you, including as an
international student. How was that dynamic? I mean, you were elected
by the student body to represent everybody. MR. TATCHIM: Yeah. MR. BOLL: And I assume
that you were dealing with all kinds of students. MR. TATCHIM: I was. Actually, you’re right. I was elected by
the student body. But in that position, I
learned a lot about, not only the American culture, but
also how to deal with people. So that was a great
experience because you learn to develop yourself. Again, not being
from here, you learn to acquaint yourself with
things that are not normally familiar with you. So yes, that was a good way for
me to learn about the culture and also to grow myself
as an individual. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. Thank you. Thank you both. So our next question is,
do community colleges have the same type of
extracurricular activities or organizations that are
found at universities? Dawn, let me ask you how
things are at Kirkwood. MS. WOOD: Yeah. Absolutely. At Kirkwood, our
international students get involved in everything. We have intramural sports,
we have competitive sports, we have student organizations,
including the student government like
Edward mentioned, and clubs of all different kinds
that you can get involved in. STEM Club, biology club. And we have an international
student leadership [AUDIO OUT] started at Kirkwood, so you
can serve on the government or our leadership team. So it’s really a lot of options. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. MR. WHEELER: I’d
like to also add that, yes, they do have lots
of opportunities for students to becoming engaged with
organizations on campus that four year
institutions have, but they also have some that
four year institutions do not have. I know that a few years
ago I came in contact with some community
colleges in the Midwest that had a rodeo club that actually
was competitive rodeo. And so that’s something
unique, I think. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. So the fact that there are
so many different community colleges with so
many students there also means that it
sounds like they’re very creative in
co-curricular activities. MR. WHEELER: Yes. So not only on campus,
but also connecting with the local
community as well. MR. BOLL: OK. And that’s a very important
thing for us at EducationUSA. We want students to have a real
experience in the United States and to be part and parcel
of American communities, of our families, to have a
real experience here and have every chance to
benefit from the U.S. And that means critical
thinking, everything that happens in the classroom,
but as well experiences at home. So could you tell us a
little bit about home stays? Because that’s a little bit
like co-curricular activities. Do students engage with families
a lot with their communities that they’re in? MR. WHEELER: Yes. They’re located right there
in the local community. Often home stays
are with families that volunteer to take in
international students. They’re located in
the local community and the families seek
to provide opportunities for the international
student to become involved in the local community,
to meet friends there, to participate in events there. It’s really a great
introduction to the real America outside of the campus. And I’m sure that Dawn can
probably speak to home stays also that she might provide
through her institution as well. MR. BOLL: Absolutely. Dawn, can we turn to you? MS. WOOD: Yeah, right. At Kirkwood, we have home
stays as well as mentor family opportunities so that
we can connect students with families in the community
so they can go to their homes for holidays and different
activities, go to parks, go to athletic events. But also, we do a lot
of community service with out international
students, so we connect them with local organizations. Community service
and volunteering is kind of part of
American culture, so we try to introduce our
international students to that as well. We’ve had students
[AUDIO OUT] home, like Habitat For Humanity,
all types of different things so that they get
involved and meet other Americans who are also
doing this type of volunteer activity. And that’s been
really successful. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. Thank you so much,
Dawn and Wayne. Our next question. Our viewer asks, there
are so many community colleges in the USA, how do I
choose the right one for me? Excellent question. Wayne, let me turn to you. MR. WHEELER: Yes, there are
a lot of community colleges and it is a large country. And we were talking about
that a little bit earlier. And so to narrow it down,
you can even narrow it down by location,
whether or not you’d like to study in a large
cosmopolitan urban city or if you’d like to study
in a small urban town. You can also choose to study
in places where it’s warm year round or in places
where you can experience the snow in the wintertime. MR. BOLL: And the
four seasons, right. Exactly. So it’s about doing research. Dawn, anything you want to
add about how students find their way to you, for example? MS. WOOD: Right. I think it’s also
important for students to look and see what
type of services are available to
international students at that particular college
that they’re going to. Because, as Wayne
mentioned, there’s so much diversity and
community colleges. And some community
colleges are more involved in international
activities than others and maybe have more
international students or more access to
international programming. So I think that’s an
important thing to consider. And make sure you talk to
somebody at the institution. Most colleges will
have a way for you to talk to a current student
or get on their Facebook site and interact with
some current students so you kind of know the culture
of that college before you go. MR. BOLL: That’s great advice. Thank you very much. MR. WHEELER: Also,
I’d like to add that articulation agreements are
more common between community colleges and four year
colleges and universities in the same state. We have 50 different states. But you may also wish to choose
which community college by what state the four year institution
or college is located in. MR. BOLL: That’s
very good advice. So both are linked. I know there is a
trend or, at least, the beginning of what might
be a trend for articulation agreements between institutions
in different states that is even like very far away. MR. WHEELER: Oh, yeah. I know some community
colleges on the west coast that have articulation
agreements with four year colleges and
institutions on the east coast. MR. BOLL: Is there a way
to see which institutions– do you just have to go to each
institution’s website to see where their agreements are? Is there a compilation
of that somewhere? MR. WHEELER: That’s
probably the best way to do, is to actually
look at if you know which four year institution
you wish to go to, look at that
institution’s website. If you know which
community college you’d like to go to because of
the location, et cetera, to check the website of
the community college to see which four
year institutions they have articulation
agreements with. MR. BOLL: That’s a great point. So you can start at either end? MR. WHEELER: Yes. MR. BOLL: You can start looking
at the four year or the two year and vise versa. MR. WHEELER: Absolutely. MR. BOLL: Dawn, just to
go back to you quickly. Can you tell us where does
Kirkwood have articulation agreements with? MS. WOOD: So we have
articulation agreements with most all the
universities and colleges in our state, which is Iowa, but
also in some bordering states. And even if we don’t have
a specific articulation agreement, we have
students transfer to over 15 different states
and across the world. Because we’ve had students
transfer to California or to the east
coast or to Texas. So students can
transfer the credits because, as long as the
community college is an accredited institution,
the credits are accredited by the same body as the
universities are accredited by– the Higher
Learning Commission. So we need to make sure
students don’t just get limited by just the articulation
because, in general, students can transfer anywhere. We have our motto,
start here, go anywhere. And a lot of
community colleges say that because it really is true. MR. BOLL: That is
a fantastic point. Thank you for that. MR. WHEELER: Yes. Dawn made a great point. Looking for community
colleges that are accredited. And it’s really the
regional accreditation that students should look for. And I’d like to point out that
our association, the American Association of
Community Colleges, has a database on their website
of all the accredited community colleges in the U.S.
So they can look there. You can look by location
and you can also look by the name
of the institution. MR. BOLL: Thank you both. That’s fantastic advice. So students, as you
were researching, look at these databases, talk
to your EducationUSA advisors who can help. But this is how you
do your research and come up with
the institutions that you are interested in
that could be a right fit. And Dawn’s point that you
can transfer anywhere, if you can get in, that an
articulation agreement simply helps you go to a place, but
you can still transfer anywhere. You can apply anywhere
and the credits count. MR. WHEELER: She
even made the point that some community colleges
have articulation agreements with institutions
outside of the country. MR. BOLL: Right. It’s quite incredible. A lot of food for thought
and another reason to look at community colleges. Let’s go to a
question from Ayhan from Turkey, who is
asking, I am currently studying in my home country. When is the appropriate time to
start applying to a community college in the U.S.? Maybe that’s a good
question for you, Dawn. MS. WOOD: You need to apply
at least a couple of months prior to the start
of the semester that you want to begin in. And typically, community
colleges are on semester. Some of them are
on quarter, so they might have three
start times in a year or four start times in a year. Because we try to make the
admission process very smooth, usually you can
apply just a couple of months, at least
8 to 12 weeks prior to the start of the semester. The important thing
is to give yourself time to get the visa, which
is what the EducationUSA advisors will help you do
once you get your I-20. So it will depend a little bit
on which country you’re from, but we usually would advise you
to apply as early as you can. If you know where you’re
going, you might as well get that application in
early so you get the I-20 and you’re ready
to go get your visa and prepare before you arrive. MR. WHEELER: Some
of our institutions even have rolling
admissions so you can really apply at any time. And then the next semester
or quarter that comes up, you can get into those courses. MR. BOLL: So basically,
reach out to the institution and ask and see what
the timeline is. MR. WHEELER: Right. MR. BOLL: Rolling admissions or
if there’s a fixed admissions deadline. Edward, I’m curious, how
did this work with you. When did you apply and how
did you decide when to apply? MR. TATCHIM: So
originally, coming here, I was hoping to go to Capital
Technology University. But when I got here, I
realized it was very expensive. So I applied as soon as I
got here, the month after, I applied to a community college
because the university I was trying to go into was like,
I think, $14,000 a semester, whereas Prince George’s
Community College was not up to $3,000 a semester. So I applied, as soon as
I got here, a month later, I applied to community college. MR. BOLL: So you
did your homework and you applied right away? MR. TATCHIM: Absolutely. MR. BOLL: Was it because
there was a deadline upcoming or was it a running admissions? MR. TATCHIM: It was a
running admission, actually. It was a running admission. And like she said, usually
they have admissions quarterly. So it’s not only
once a semester. You could have it
for the fall and have midway through the fall, then
before the winter session starts as well. MR. BOLL: Did you find good
information on websites, I mean, when you were
researching this? MR. TATCHIM: I did
find good information, but I found that it also
helps to go there in-person because you get the chance
to talk to an actual person and voice out all your
concerns and questions. MR. BOLL: So if people are
in the U.S., of course, they can just– [INTERPOSING VOICES] MR. TATCHIM: Absolutely. MR. BOLL: But if
they’re not in the U.S., they could send emails
or use the websites. MR. TATCHIM: Yes. And now, most websites are
actually updated very often, so the information
you find on there could be very, very
helpful as well. MR. BOLL: OK, excellent. Thank you very much. MR. WHEELER: And I’m sure the
EducationUSA advisors have a lot of that information
also about when to apply. MR. BOLL: Definitely. Absolutely. That’s part of the
five step process. The way we think of it
in terms of applying is really timing your
application well. Thank you very much. That’s excellent. I know that we’ve
spoken about this, but it’s good to
emphasize certain points because our viewers are really
thinking about certain issues. Do I need to take a standardized
test to apply to a community college? Dawn, could you go
through that again? MS. WOOD: Right. Again, all community
colleges are different, but I would say most
community colleges do not require a standardized
test for admission to the community college. So you should be fine at
most community colleges without any kind of standardized
tests for admission. If you have taken it, which
is still a good idea if you’re still keeping your options
open, like a TOEFL or an IELTS, those type of tests, you
could send your results. But for example, I would say 95%
don’t require ACT, SAT, GMAT, GRE. Any of those type of tests
are not usually required. MR. BOLL: So it means that your
grades at community college are all the more important
because what you’re using to apply then to
a four year institution would be your record– essentially, your record
from community college. Is that right? MS. WOOD: That’s right. It’s really important to
pay attention to your grades while you’re at the
community college. Because if you get good grades
at the community college, there’s a chance you could get
a scholarship at the university that you’re going to
go to and also it’s setting yourself up
to be well prepared for university classes. There are studies
that have been done that have shown that students
who start at community colleges are actually more
successful at the University than students who start
out as a freshman. So that’s because we really
individualize the instruction and we try to really keep
track of our students and check on them. For example, if someone’s
not going to class, the instructors
are going to know and they’re probably
going to reach out to my office, the
international office and ask, hey, what
happened to Edward? Where is he today. And we’ll try to find them
and see what’s going on. We really care
about our students. MR. BOLL: Please, Edward. MR. TATCHIM: To pick it up from
where Dawn ended, keeping up good grades is very
important because once you have a certain GPA,
honor society starts sending invitation letters. Like you mentioned, Phi
Theta Kappa Honor Society. If you have above a 3.0
GPA, I think, automatically they send you an email inviting
you to join them because of your outstanding work. So maintaining a good
GPA is very important. And it also opens doors
to numerous scholarships and other opportunities as well. MR. BOLL: That’s great advice. One of the things that
we’re very proud about when we talk about an
American higher education overseas is the quality
of our education and emphasizing to
students around the world that the reason to come
to the United States, one of the reasons, is the
personal attention they get on all our campuses, that
our schools are dedicated to their academic, professional,
and personal success. And I think this example
of community colleges, about how you do
this, is the best one of really a focus
on the student’s best interest and that
success moving forward. MS. WOOD: Absolutely. MR. BOLL: Let’s go
to our next question because I know we have a lot. Osama from Israel
would like to know, is there an age limit to
enter community colleges? That’s a great question. Wayne, do you want to take that? MR. WHEELER: Well, there
isn’t such a stringent age requirement as you might
find at a four year college or university. The average age of a
community college student is around 28 years old. But there is some community
colleges that have, for instance, high school
completion programs. Many community colleges–
actually, the whole sector enrolls the largest number
of plus 50 students. Also, about 8% of students
at community colleges already have their
bachelor’s degree. So it really depends. But in general, you
would have to have graduated from high school. I think that’s across
the board could get you into community college. But like I said, some have
high school completion programs as well. MR. BOLL: OK, that’s great. Edward, were there all
ages in your program? MR. TATCHIM: Absolutely. It’s interesting
because I made friends with a lot of people who
were older than I was. I had some friends
who were 40, 50. And it’s interesting
to be young and try to learn, but also learn from
people who are older than you. So I did have that experience
learning from other people as well. MR. BOLL: That’s great. So that’s a part of
the whole experience. MR. TATCHIM: Absolutely. And I guess that’s
where it gets its name. The community college. It’s like a community
of different individuals all together in the same
learning environment. MR. BOLL: That’s a
great way to see it. MR. WHEELER: And
actually, Prince George’s has a special program
where they actually have a high school on their campus. MR. TATCHIM: Right. MR. BOLL: That’s amazing. MR. TATCHIM: So you have
a lot of high schoolers who go to class with us. And when we graduate with
our associate’s degree, in the morning, they graduate
with the high school diplomas, and in the evening,
they graduate with an associate’s degree. So it’s really incredible. MR. BOLL: So they can graduate
with both the high school diploma and associate’s
degree at the same time. MR. TATCHIM: Simultaneously. MR. BOLL: That’s so creative. So actually, that’s
great because it leads into our next question,
which I’ll ask Dawn. Our viewer asks,
what degree do you earn after successfully complete
completing community college? MS. WOOD: Right. The name of the degree is
the associate’s degree. So if you go two years to a
community college, you can– MR. WHEELER: Yes, as Dawn
said, a two year degree is called an associate’s
degree in the U.S. And so that’s what you would
get from a community college. But I’d like to also point out
that there are some community colleges that
offer baccalaureate degrees in applied fields. So a community college may
offer a bachelor’s degree, depending on which field
that you’re studying as well. MR. BOLL: I see. Very interesting. So it depends on the college
as well as the field. OK. Edward, do you notice Prince
George’s offer any bachelor’s degrees? MR. TATCHIM: At one of its
extension centers, yes. The Laurel College Center. Because Prince George’s
Community College has at least four
extension centers, aside from the main
campus in Largo. So I know Laurel College
Center in partnership with Morgan State University
and the University of Maryland University College,
does offer bachelor’s degree and baccalaureate
degrees as well. MR. BOLL: OK. Thank you. It’s good to get that specific
perspective just as an example. So our next viewer,
Christine, asks, how do international students
apply for scholarships and financial aid? Dawn, can I go to you again? MS. WOOD: Yes. So for example, at
Kirkwood, you would apply for the scholarships as
you’re applying for admission. But as Wayne
mentioned, at Kirkwood, we do have some scholarships
for incoming students. But at some
institutions, you might have to wait until you’re
a current student, which you can also do at Kirkwood. And most colleges will
have a scholarship office that has a separate
application for applying, which typically are
very easy applications. It’s just a matter of filling
it out, submitting it. And if you have good
grades, that typically qualifies you for something. You might get a different
type of scholarship, like an athletic scholarship. If you’re interested in
the athletic scholarships, you really need to
contact the coach that is responsible for
that particular sport at your college in order to
apply for the scholarship. So there might be
different ways of doing it at each institution,
but there’s usually somebody you can ask at
the institution about what the process is there. MR. BOLL: Fantastic. So reach out, ask
the questions early. Our next viewer,
Joscelin, would like to know what kind
of honors programs are available at
community colleges? Edward, I know you
spoke– can you talked a little bit about
what was available to you? MR. TATCHIM: Yes. So two main honors
programs that I know of at Prince
George’s Community College was Phi Theta Kappa Honors
Society as well as the National Society of Community Colleges. So those honor societies
were pretty much, simply, if you have
a good GPA and you’re a student in good
academic standing, they would send you
that invitation. And all you have to do
is reach back out to them and subscribe to
the honor society. MR. BOLL: OK, interesting. Wayne, anything you want to add? MR. WHEELER: Not
really, but I guess belonging to honor
society, also the society provides you with a
lot of information that you might wish to have
if you’re transferring. For instance, I mentioned that
on Phi Theta Kappa’s website, they have a robust
database of information about transfer scholarships. And they also have other
activities that students can engage in as well. Volunteer activities,
I think there is some study abroad and
research opportunities that they have that their
members participate in as well. MR. BOLL: Fantastic. So to look at
honors opportunities in holistic perspective
and say that lots of things can flow from that as well– MR. WHEELER: Absolutely. MR. BOLL: Being associated
to those programs. OK. So our next question is
from the viewing party at the EducationUSA center
in Medellin, Colombia. Our viewers ask,
what is the price range for community colleges? That’s a great and
important question? Wayne, can I turn
to you for that? MR. WHEELER: Well, it’s
been a number of years since I’ve actually
looked at that. But when I did– I’d like to stay away
from the exact numbers since, like I said, it
was a few years ago. But when I looked at it,
international students could expect to pay less than
1/3 the cost that they would normally have to pay
at a four year public college or university. And if you’re talking about
a private four year college, it’s just a fraction
of the cost. Because that could be,
at a private institution, it could be $40,000,
$50,000 or so a year. MR. BOLL: Dawn, would
you be able to give us some perspective
from where you sit? MS. WOOD: Sure. There is a range of costs. So you’ll find in
some states it’s quite a bit less than other states. But for example, at Kirkwood,
tuition alone is about $9,000 per year. So that is substantially
lower than, say, universities that are in our region. But you’ll find there
is some variation. So each state will be
a little bit different. MR. BOLL: OK. Thank you very much. And so students need
to research this. This is a big thing that they
need to look into specifically. Dawn, if I can stay with
you for our next question. Our question they ask,
do community colleges provide any support for
off campus internships? Do you have any
programs like that? MS. WOOD: We do, actually. So one of our
programs at Kirkwood is our hospitality and
tourism management program. And for that program, for
example, an internship is required. And you’ll find that community
colleges, in general, and we will help students
to find the internship and also to get the
appropriate authorization to work in the United States. MR. BOLL: OK. Thank you very much. Edward, did you have
internship options? Did you think about that? MR. TATCHIM: I did have
internship options. One thing that I know at Prince
George’s Community College at the beginning of every
year, we have job fairs. So during those fairs,
you have companies from across DC, Maryland,
Virginia come to the college and actually talk to students. So if your resume is
convincing– again, you have to do your own homework
by presenting a very good resume– you would certainly always
get those opportunities for internships. MR. BOLL: I like the
fact that you always bring us back to it’s an
individual responsibility. MR. TATCHIM: Right. MR. BOLL: Students have to do
this, they have to work at it, nothing comes automatically,
but that there are lots of opportunities. MR. TATCHIM: Right. Think about it. If a job recruiter has five
opportunities for internships and he has 1,000 students
coming across his table, you have to stand out. So if your resume stands out,
if you could speak for yourself, if you could sell yourself,
you would definitely get those opportunities. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. That’s very good advice. MR. WHEELER: And I’d like to add
that community colleges often, because they have
such close ties to their local
communities, often have very close ties
to private industry within those
communities as well. MR. BOLL: Right. And it sounds like a
wide variety of industry that, in fact, may not think of
going to a four year college. MR. WHEELER: Right. MR. BOLL: Very interesting. Very interesting and
a lot of food for thought for our viewers. Our next question is, do most
community colleges have dorms or do I need to get an
apartment off campus? We spoke about this,
but let’s go back. Dawn, can I ask you how
does it look at Kirkwood? MS. WOOD: So at
Kirkwood, we don’t own our own housing,
but we partner with many local apartments that
are within walking distance of the campus. So I found this to be a trend
at a lot of other community colleges too. Where we have 4,000
apartment spots that are open around the campus
and we partner with them, and it’s primarily
like student housing. They have resident assistants. They even have
activities going on. So even if the college
doesn’t own their own housing, there’s probably a
good housing option nearby where a lot of students
live that we can refer you to. MR. BOLL: Thank you, Dawn. And Wayne, that’s very much what
you described before about lots of different options. Community colleges are
thinking about this, they’re organized for this. They have advice for
students and information. And I assume, like
the college, the idea is that this is housing
that’s affordable for students and that it is student housing. MR. WHEELER: Right. MS. WOOD: Right. MR. BOLL: Would you
say that’s fair, Dawn? MS. WOOD: Yes, absolutely. That’s definitely true. MR. BOLL: OK. Appreciate that and sorry
for the technical issues that we’re having. So our next question is, how can
a community college prepare me for different job
opportunities and careers? That’s an excellent question
because not everyone is going to go on to a
four year institution or want to go on
to an institution. Many community colleges
are– actually, their purpose is to prepare
students to go right into the job market. Dawn, how do you see that? I mean, you mentioned
hospitality. Edward did computer science. MR. TATCHIM: Right. MR. BOLL: That’s an
interesting thing. What are those
areas where students are looking at jobs right away? MS. WOOD: There’s
a lot of areas, particularly business in IT. We have a lot of
applied science areas where students are going
directly into the workforce. Even liberal arts. When students can get
that work experience where Wayne talked about having
an optional practical training year in between your associate’s
degree and your completion of your bachelor’s degree,
those work experiences are invaluable as you’re
working towards your career and what you want
to do in your life. So we have a career
services office, and most community colleges
have career services office that do mock interviews, that
will have career fairs, that will help you to plan
out your resume, all of those type of hands on things
that you need for job seeking. MR. BOLL: Thank you
very much, Dawn. Wayne, anything that you want
to add to that perspective? Because you see a lot of
community colleges, right? MR. WHEELER: Yes. MR. BOLL: Is this
is this common? MR. WHEELER: It’s very common. About more than half of the
students at community colleges, they do come to transfer to four
year colleges and universities. About 58% of them. The other portion are coming to
go directly into the workforce. And that’s usually in the form
of obtaining a certificate to go directly
into the workforce. And as Dawn had mentioned,
community colleges have very close ties to
industry and also provide great opportunity, even
before they graduate, to work on state of
the art equipment, for instance, on the campus
and in the various industries and to really equip the
student to function properly and successfully once
they come to an employer. At Prince George’s, I believe
they have a special program where they work very
closely with the employer at the nuclear power plant. MR. TATCHIM: Yeah. MR. WHEELER: Where they provide
even scholarships to students who wish to go into that program
and provide state of the art equipment for them to train on
in order to go into the field. MR. BOLL: That’s incredible. So the thing to really
take away from this is that this is
state of the art. Community colleges are
excellent institutions that have a ton–
because their focus is on the practical results
for students, right? It’s jobs or it’s
further study, but it’s all about launching students
into a positive career and professional path. MR. WHEELER: Absolutely. And at the association,
actually, we help to administer the advanced
technological education program that the National
Science Foundation funds. And that prepares
students to be technicians in cutting edge
technologies that are important to the
economy for the nation. And that effort is led
by community colleges around the country who partner
with four year institutions as well as high schools
and private industry. MR. BOLL: That’s fantastic. Thank you very much. Our next question is–
this is a really good one. They’ve all been very good,
but this was something I was wondering about. Do I declare a major
at a community college or am I just beginning courses
and I would do so later? How does that work? Wayne. And then we’ll go to all of you. MR. WHEELER: Yeah. I can answer a little
bit, but I think Dawn might have more
detailed information. Community colleges
do offer majors for students who are attending. However, in particular
for students who are looking to
transfer, you’re really getting the
introductory classes that you would normally
get at a four year college or university. I know when I was going, those
first two years were really introductory
classes, requirements to go into certain fields
once I got to be a junior. MR. BOLL: OK. Interesting. Dawn, how does it
work at Kirkwood? MS. WOOD: Right. So what Wayne is
talking about is usually referred to as liberal arts. So students would declare
the major of liberal arts if they are going to be
transferring to a four year university in a
variety of subjects. But they could
also choose to have a major such as nursing or
the hospitality management program, computer
science, engineering if they have a specific path. So we try to meet with each
student at the beginning, identify their pathway, and make
sure they’re on the right track to get to the point they
need to when they transfer. Or if they’re looking for
that two year degree in, say, nursing, that they complete all
the requirements in that time. MR. BOLL: OK. Thank you very much. Our final question. What types of
support are offered to international students
at community colleges? That’s kind of a very
wide ranging question. We’ve heard about a lot of
lots of different things. But campuses have
support services. Dawn, how does that
work on your campus and generally in
terms of thinking about interacting
with students as they move through the system? MS. WOOD: I think it’s often
overwhelming to international students how many services are
provided to them for free when they arrive at a
community college. Because, for example, we have
a free recreation center, we have free counseling,
we have free advising. So many services. The career counseling
I talked about are all part and parcel of being
a community college student. There’s international
student advisors that help with cultural adjustment. There’s just so many
services available that sometimes it can be
a little overwhelming. So it just takes some time
to adjust to all the things that are available to you. MR. BOLL: I believe it. Edward, let me ask you what
was your experience in person? MR. TATCHIM: To begin
from where Dawn ended, it’s overwhelming when you
get to a community college at first. Never been in America,
you get there, there are a lot of
resources to help guide you. Because, again, most
community colleges have different pathways. So I, for one, went there
knowing I wanted to transfer. But if you’re going there
let’s say, for example, to get a degree and get
straight into the workforce, it’s going to be different. So I really got
guidance as to what classes I needed to take
that will help me transfer. That was one of the
good things I really appreciate about
community college, but also guidance as to how to
deal with financial literacy, for example. Those are things that coming
into the country no one tells you about. You end of you having
debt or finding yourself in a very bad
posture financially. So those are the
type of guidance that I got at Prince
George’s Community College through the Financial
Empowerment Center. You also have counseling,
so if you have a problem or if you’re suffering
from stress or whatever, you could go there and talk
to a counselor or someone who would guide you. You also have the
health center if you have a headache or a fever. These type of resources
are available to us, and that really
makes your experience at a community
college really unique. One thing I also want to
mention is the student support services. That’s student clubs– there is
an experience in the classroom, but the experience
outside of the classroom also matters to me because
you can’t get everything from a professor. Certain things you need to
learn from other people, you need to learn in life. So all these services
combined together really made my experience good at
Prince George’s Community College. MR. BOLL: That’s
amazing to hear. And that’s really
an impressive list of things that enhance
a student’s whole life. MR. TATCHIM: Right. MR. WHEELER: And
there’s an assumption that I want to say specifically
about tutoring services that are available at
community colleges, as well as services for
students who have disabilities. All institutions
in the U.S. have services for those students who
have disabilities and community colleges do as well. MR. BOLL: I’m so glad you
pointed that out, Wayne. That’s great. We did a webinar
regarding facilities for students with disabilities
just a little while ago. And that’s a fantastic
point that that extends to community colleges as well. MR. WHEELER: Absolutely. A fantastic range. So everything from the
academic part of things, the personal side of things, the
co-curricular side of things, there are all kinds of services. That’s a great vision. So unfortunately, we
are almost out of time, but I would like to ask
each of our participants to share a final
thought for our viewers. Dawn, could I start with you? MS. WOOD: Sure. I would just like
to invite everyone to reach out to someone
at a community college as you’re making this
decision to decide on your future education. Because for the majority,
like Wayne mentioned, of students in
the United States, they look at this
option as well. And I think it’s a little known
type of educational opportunity that’s available to
international students and really provides a
wonderful transition. There’s so many people
just ready on the phone or on a video conference
to chat with you about it. So reach out and
ask your question. That’s my final comment. MR. BOLL: That’s a great vision. Thank you, Dawn. Wayne? MR. WHEELER: Yes. I’d like to mention once again
that community colleges are a great opportunity for
international students. They provide high quality
education for a lower cost. Each year, our association
honors outstanding alumni who are leaders
in their field who started out at community
colleges, who have gone on to do very wonderful things
and won international awards for the work that they do. So I just want to
mention that and let people know that community
colleges are really looking for and welcoming
international students on their campus. MR. BOLL: Thank you. That’s a great vision to
leave our viewers with. Thank you, Wayne. Edward? MR. TATCHIM: So, like
I earlier mentioned, when I came to this
country, I didn’t want to go to a
community college because there’s
always this conception that four year universities are
better than community colleges. But now having gone through
a community college, I would say it’s
a great experience for an international student
because you’re immersed in the American culture
and you have really, really opportunities
to discover yourself and to, not only
excel academically, but to excel as a person. And one thing any
international student should keep at the
back of his or her mind coming to the United States is
you have to frame your future. So even at a
community college, you have to keep doing
your research. At a community college, if you
want scholarships and anything that you want, you have
to go out there and get it because you are the hero of
your story and everything that you do depends on you. MR. BOLL: Fantastic
words of advice, Edward. I can’t thank you enough. MR. TATCHIM: Thank you. MR. BOLL: That’s an amazing
way to think for every student no matter what she
or he wants to pursue in life and in studies. Thank you for joining us today. And of course, a
special thank you to our guests, Dawn,
Wayne and Edward. A very special thanks to our
viewing groups joining us from around the world,
and especially those at the American Corner in
Pristina, Kosovo EducationUSA in Medellin,
Colombia, EducationUSA in Managua, Nicaragua,
and EducationUSA in Maracaibo, Venezuela. I also want to issue
a special thanks to our global
public affairs video team who does such
fantastic work to produce these webinars
and our whole team at EducationUSA who is running
them behind the scenes. You do fantastic work. You can find more information
about studying in the United States by visiting the
EducationUSA website at www.educationusa.state.gov. There you can find information
on the five steps to U.S. study, locate an EducationUSA
Advising Center in your country 1 of 439 around
the world, connect with us via social media,
learn about both in-person and virtual upcoming events,
research financial aid opportunities and much more. Thank you and please join
us for a future EducationUSA interactive web chats. Goodbye from Washington.

Author: Kennedi Daugherty

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