With more than 400 two- and four-year colleges in the state, California is a top destination for international students looking to take advantage of our high-quality education.
People generally think that international students aim for four-year colleges or universities. However, the community college is a great planned destination for international students due to its affordability and wide range of programs.
Community colleges began looking beyond our nation’s borders in the 1980s and 1990s, according to a report by the American Council on Education. Nationally, “community colleges represent approximately 10% of total international enrollment at U.S. degree-granting institutions of higher education,” the 2020 report notes.
More than 12,800 students from around the world enrolled in community colleges across the state as of fall 2021, according to the Office of the Chancellor of California Community Colleges. Locally, approximately 140 students, from nearly 20 countries, attend Moorpark, Oxnard, and Ventura Colleges through the Ventura County Community College District International Student Program. Students come from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.
District-wide international students major primarily in business or computer science. However, there is an increased interest in multimedia and film and television courses. We are also seeing interest in hospitality and hospitality management programs at Oxnard and Moorpark Colleges and commercial and collegiate sports at Ventura College.
The district plans to expand the international student program as it provides learning benefits to students who live in Ventura County and international students.
Many international students enroll in our colleges because they want to start their studies in a school where they receive more attention, save on tuition fees and participate in cultural experiences before transferring to a university for pursue undergraduate studies. They may want to play competitive sports at the college level. Others may want to meet new people and immerse themselves in the “California lifestyle” just minutes from a big city and coastal and mountain activities.
As businesses and industries become increasingly global, international students also benefit from studying abroad by being exposed to other cultures.
Whatever their reasons, these students will benefit from a college experience that offers quality education. They will also enhance our campuses by bringing a wide range of diverse customs and perspectives.
Our colleges support international students with a comprehensive program that enables them to achieve their academic goals. These opportunities put international students on the right path to earning their associate degree and completing their studies at a four-year university.
VCCCD offers support services tailored to the needs of an international student. Program experts guide students through the application process and advise them on the forms required to study in the United States. Additionally, students must attend a one-day orientation, where they meet with program staff to learn about registration, how to maintain their visa status, and find on-campus employment.
The international program also offers tutoring, advising, mentoring, and access to intercollegiate sports and clubs, where international students can make lasting connections with their peers and network.
VCCCD colleges provide personalized counseling from faculty and staff engaged with international students to ensure their academic success and help them become familiar with the U.S. higher education system before they transfer to a university to get a bachelor’s degree.
California State University Channel Islands and California Lutheran University have transfer agreements with VCCCD colleges. These agreements allow international students to continue their studies in these institutions, often with scholarships.
Once students earn their associate degree or certificate of achievement, they are eligible to apply for optional practical training (OPT). Through federal law, the OPT allows qualified international students to work in the United States for 12 months or more in an industry related to their field of study. This provides international students with practical experiences in their major and added value for potential employers in their home country.
International students are not the only ones to benefit from the VCCCD International Student Program. American students, faculty, staff, and other residents of our community can gain valuable knowledge and experiences from international students. This means that everyone can achieve an appreciation for different cultures and grow to understand and respect the differences in ideas, behaviors and customs that exist around the world.
Greg Gillespie, Ph.D., is the district chancellor of Ventura County Community College. For more information about the district, visit VCCCD.edu.