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An Integral Part

“Community cannot for long feed on itself; it can only flourish with the coming of others from beyond, their unknown and undiscovered brothers.”
- Howard Thurman

When individuals decide to pursue an education abroad, most of them immediately think of applying to the Ivy Leagues, to the top universities.

You’ve heard of Harvard and Princeton; but has anyone of you heard of Chattahoochee Valley Community College or Linn-Benton Community College?

The two community colleges I just mentioned are two of the top community colleges in the United States, commended for the quality education they provide.

So - what is a community college exactly?

A community college is defined as “a 2 year college offering courses that are supposed to fit the needs of the local community. Occupational, adult, and general education courses are included along with liberal arts transfer courses. Though the terms ‘junior’ and ‘community’ college are often used interchangeably, junior colleges are more often limited to liberal arts transfer courses only.”

Many of the comments I’ve been getting from interested, but doubtful-about-finances, potential students have been about the enormity of tuition fees and living costs they have to shell out just for an education abroad.

I absolutely agree - all of us have to be a bit tight with finances nowadays. Quality for your buck must be given first priority.

A good quality community college may just be the answer to one’s financial dilemma, as well as an easier route to achieving one’s American scholastic dream.

I found a rather interesting article regarding reasons why one should consider enrolling into a community college :


By Mark Wen, North Seattle Community College

Mark Wen gives us his ten reasons as to why international students should study at American Community Colleges

More than 10 million students are attending about 1200 community colleges in the US. In recent years, more and more international students have chosen to start their college education at American community colleges. Each year more than 98,000 international students from all over the world are studying at community colleges. Houston Community College has 3500 international students. Seminole Community College, in Florida, has 1600 international students which is 20% of the total student enrolment. There are many advantages for international students to get their first two years of a bachelor’s degree at a community college, and then transfer into a university to finish the 3rd and 4th year.

The top 10 reasons international students should study at American Community Colleges are:

1. Quality education with much lower cost
Most American community colleges are funded by state or local taxes. Tuition can be as much as 20-80% less than at regular universities. One academic year of community college tuition can be as low as ,000 to ,000 US dollars, compared to one academic year of university tuition at ,000 to ,000 US dollars.

2. Admission is flexible and easier
One of the unique policies of a community college is open enrolment. Academic requirements are usually lower than four-year universities. International students, with or without a high school diploma, can enroll at a community college. Some community colleges even offer high school completion programs. This means that international students can finish their last year of high school at a community college. Some of the high school credits can also be counted as the first year of college credits. This system is only available in American community colleges.

3. Lower or no TOEFL requirements
Many community colleges offer intensive English as a Second Language programs for students whose TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score is too low. After on-campus intensive English programs, international students can enrol directly in college level studies.

4. Smaller class size, easier communication with instructors
Community colleges are often smaller than traditional four-year universities. Classes are smaller. The average community college class size is 25-35 students. In contrast, some introductory level courses at universities are in lecture halls with 150-300 or more students in a class. Many international students say that attending community college for two years improves their language skills, helps them grow accustomed to the U.S. educational system and way of life, and allows them to make an easier transition into larger universities to finish the 3rd and 4th years.

5. More supportive learning environments
The community college system is friendly to international students. For most international students, English is their second language. Competing with American students in the same class puts them at a disadvantage. However, there are many free support services such as tutoring, writing labs, international student clubs, and international student service centers that can help level the playing field.

6. Wide variety of courses of study
The main mission of community colleges is to meet the educational needs of “the community”, and to provide higher education and job skill training to all people in the community. International students have a wide variety of subjects and majors they can choose to study.

7. Specialized short-term certificate programs meet the needs of industry
Often, specialized skills are needed for certain industries such as CISCO Computer Networking, restaurant management, interior design, real estate management, etc. Community colleges are the best place for many of these short-term certificate programs to help meet industry demands. Each year, more than 200,000 certificates are awarded by American community colleges.

8. State-of-the-art technology
Most American community colleges have state-of-the-art teaching technologies and instructional facilities. Traditional universities often focus on basic education and research, while community colleges focus not only on basic education, but also provide skill-based training and workforce development. Industry often has closer ties with community colleges, which forces their community college partners to have state-of-the-art technology.

9. Accredited colleges with quality programs
Most American community colleges are public colleges accredited by American college and university accreditation associations, so credits earned at community college are equivalent to traditional university credits.

10. Easy transfer to top universities
Although there is no guarantee of transferring into a particular university, many community colleges have articulation agreements with top universities. Most of the universities welcome international students that have graduated from community colleges. At North Seattle Community College, international students have transferred to the University of Washington, Seattle University, University of California - Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania and many other top universities.

Although the American community college system is still relatively new to other countries, more and more people have learned that community colleges are the best first step towards a quality American college education.

To be part of a community college, means that you are part of a community - a scholastic community wherein each member is an integral part of a whole.

So, be that undiscovered brother - long to affect and be affected by an unknown space. Be an integral part of a new community.

About the Author: Graduating in 2004 from Ateneo de Manila with a major in AB Communication and a minor in AB History, Nikki Alfonso lives for the written word. Her passion for writing began with a poem she composed about an elephant and a red rubber ball when she was 7 years old. From then on, she became fixated with words, using them to move readers, to expressively get her message across and to make up stories with her friends about imaginary rendezvous with matinee idols and boy bands. She had her first taste of being a salaried writer in January 2004 when she began writing for Eversun Software Corporation. Prompted by the need to find a job after graduation, her love of putting pen to paper and entertainment, she decided to take on a full-time job in television as a creative staff member and writer wherein she would be paid for daydreaming and telling stories. Wanting to give back to a cause close to her heart, she also writes for JADE -- an online magazine seeking to showcase English-speaking Asian women as intelligent and well-accomplished movers and shakers in their respective fields. Nikki believes that in order for one to be truly called a writer, the ability to empathize and the potency to create with heart are pre-requisites. Flunk in those departments and you don't get a diploma.

Check out her Studying Abroad blog.

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