What are community colleges in the United States?

CC in the USDid you know that nearly 33% of all new international students in the United States in the 2013-14 academic year began their studies at a community college? That’s pretty remarkable considering in many parts of the world, the community college concept does not exist.

What are community colleges? Our friends at EducationUSA have defined them as two year, post-secondary institutions which are “sometimes called junior colleges and there are more than 1,700 such colleges. In the U.S. most community colleges are state-supported. A few are independent or under private control…. (and provide) vocational education and technical training.”

These institutions are typically very well-connected to the 4-year universities in their states and have policies in place called articulation or 2+2 agreements. The public community colleges have these agreements in place to make the transition from a 2-year associate’s degree to a 4-year bachelor’s degree.

International students coming to the U.S. often choose community colleges for one or two reasons: lower tuition costs and/or easier admissions standards. Our friends at US News Education International Student Counsel blog had a very useful post that details those reasons as well as improving English language proficiency. Another benefit is that for each degree level of study in the United States as an F-1 student visa holder, you could potentially apply for permission to work (Optional Practical Training) from between 12-29 months in your field of study to gain experience but also potentially save money toward future study. Whatever the reason, if you have the goal of eventually obtaining a bachelor’s degree in the U.S. community colleges provide a great option.

With over 1700 two-year colleges in the United States, in every one of the fifty states and the District of Columbia, in urban, suburban, and rural areas, large & small size schools, there is literally a multitude of possible choices you will have if you consider community colleges. Be sure to check out the American Association of Community Colleges search engine to check out the available options. Keep your options open, and see the possibilities.

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