Community college: An int’l students’ answer to an affordable education in the US?

best community colleges
Which are the best community colleges in the US if you're on a tight budget? Source: Kimberly White/ Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Community colleges in the US serve as a financially viable solution for students with limited financial means to earn college credits before transferring to a four-year public or private university. However, do international students qualify to study at these institutions, and what are some of the best community colleges in the US for those on a budget?

International students can attend community colleges in the US. In fact, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) estimates that one-fifth of the student body in community colleges around the US comprise of international students.

Besides the benefit of lowering the cost of obtaining a bachelor’s degree, international students can still gain plenty of global exposure to the typical four-year American college life as the campus experience is just as diverse. Acceptance rates into community colleges are typically high, providing a gateway for international students who aren’t familiar with the American education system to get adjusted at a less competitive pace.

It’s worth noting that in many instances, international students pay non-resident tuition unless a separate fee scheme is applicable to them.

Community colleges in the US worth exploring

Fox Valley Technical College

Thirty-six students from 19 countries join the FVTC family for the 2019-20 academic year.

The 2019-20 international student enrolment at Fox Valley Technical College. Source: Fox Valley Technical College

Out-of-state tuition costs: US$228.70 per credit unit (2021-22 academic year)

At Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC), students can choose to enrol in one of 200 degree, diploma and certificate programmes with specialisations in the fields of aircraft mechanics, automation, business management, electronics, electronic engineering, English language, entrepreneurship, global studies, hospitality, information technology, manufacturing, mechanical design, and nursing.

The Global Education programme at FVTC offers a wide range of opportunities to gain relevant work experience and international education opportunities, including training for business, foreign language studies, English Language learning, customised learning for enrolment of students around the world as well as study abroad immersions.

American River College

American River College hosts a diverse student body in beautiful campuses around California’s capital, Sacramento. Source: American River College

Out-of-state tuition costs:  US$395 per credit unit (2022-23 academic year)

Based in Sacramento, California, the state’s capital, American River College (ARC) is home to 26,735 students (as of Fall 2021) and hosts a diverse student body.

Students can choose from an assortment of 396 degree and certificate programmes with specialisations in the fields of apprenticeship, astronomy, community services education, design & engineering technology, hospitality management, interior design, nursing and allied health as well as speech-language pathology.

International students should take note that there are different attendance requirements for each visa type.

ARC is approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to issue the I-20 for the F-1 visa. International students must be enrolled in at least 12 units each semester and must maintain a C (2.0) grade point average at all times to comply with F-1 visa requirements.

Students can participate in study abroad initiatives provided that are at least 18, have completed at least 12 units in college, maintain a 2.25 CGPA and be in good academic standing. For the 2022-23 academic year, students will get the opportunity to travel to London, UK and Florence, Italy.

An assortment of work experience and internship programmes are also available to help students gain relevant industrial experience to pursue a career in their field of interest or choice.

Oxnard Community College

Oxnard Community College boasts a beautiful campus that offers an exciting range of degree and certificate programmes. Source: Oxnard Community College

Out-of-state tuition costs:  US$265 per credit unit (fall/spring), US$247 per credit unit (summer session)

Oxnard College, located in Ventura County in the outskirts of Los Angeles provides a safe and idyllic environment for international students to thrive.

There are 26 fields of degree and certificate programmes, which specialised areas of interest in business and hospitality, education, hands-on-learning, language and literature, law, culture and society, public safety, health and wellness, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as well as visual and creative areas.

The career centre at Oxnard College offers a wealth of opportunities for students to participate in  internship and externship programmes. These work placements provide students with the vital experiences needed for them make an informed decision of their career pathway.

Moreover, the career centre offer a great deal of help for students looking for work, as they maintain a close connection with local employers to ensure that job opportunities are always present for Oxnard students to apply, whether on a full-time or part-time basis. The Placement Specialist and Career counsellor can also provide students with career, job and internship resources.

Central Wyoming College

Affordability, quality education and a scenic campus are just some of the reasons you should consider an education at Central Wyoming College. Source: Central Wyoming College

International tuition fees: US$8,784 for 12 credits per year

Looking for a relaxed and conducive campus for you to study as an international student? Look no further — Central Wyoming College (CWC) is nestled in the heart of Riverton, Wyoming. The fresh air and close proximity to beautiful mountain ranges such as the Wind River Mountains, along the Wind River Walley, make this an ideal setting for students to enjoy outdoor and recreational activities.

The college offers over 50 degree and certificate programmes in the fields such as applied science, agriculture and equine, behavioural and social sciences, business and entrepreneurship, career and technical programmes, media, arts and humanities, health science as well as outdoor education and environment science.

The Career Services unit at CWC is a resourceful platform for students to seek advice and assistance with their career development.

Houston Community College

Houston Community College is among the most affordable community colleges in the US. Source: Houston Community College

Out-of-state tuition fees: US$2,730 for 12 semester hours

Houston Community College (HCC) offers programmes with areas of study in accounting, business, construction management technology, health information technology, among others.

The Career and Job Placement services at HCC aims to guide  HCC students in their career development as well as to address the problems of labour shortage in all industries.

Support services are provided to international students who enrol at HCC through the help of International Student Ambassadors (ISA).