It’s extremely important that students of all backgrounds and life experiences have access to information about going abroad. During the Go Global Tour, I travel across the country visiting colleges of different sizes, in rural and urban areas, with diverse student populations.
I am so grateful when I have the opportunity to visit community colleges. Unlike some larger 4-year colleges or universities, community colleges don’t necessarily have the same resources, professional support (for example, a study abroad office or advisor), or program options. And of course, students continue to cite financial constraints as the primary barrier, either real or perceived, to considering study abroad as an option.
The 2013 IIE Open Doors Report shows that the majority of community college students going abroad are still overwhelmingly white and female. The Institute for International Education further verifies what we all know to be true of the community college experience:
Community college populations are historically comprised of non-traditional students, including minority students, those with high financial need, and first-generation college students, all populations that currently are largely underrepresented in study abroad. If this trend is allowed to continue, these underrepresented groups will remain on the sidelines and will not have equal access to the life-changing opportunities that will prepare them for today’s global society.1
Additionally, community college students are sometimes older, work full-time to support their families, and in part choose to attend community college due to its affordability. For this reason, it isn’t necessarily a surprise to know that very few students are going abroad at the community college level.
So what kind of real solutions currently exist to support increased funding opportunities and program options that are both realistic and affordable for community college students? There are lots of state and nation-wide consortia committed to making education abroad opportunities feasible for community college students. Some examples include the California Colleges for International Education, Community Colleges for International Development, and the Washington Consortium of Community Colleges for Study Abroad.
But with initiatives such as Generation Study Abroad, coupled with President Obama’s American Graduation Initiative, in which he proposes making community college tuition-free for two years, it is my hope that more programs and funding opportunities with specific regard to the needs and concerns of community colleges become available.
If you work at a community college and have a success story about students from your campus, please tell us!
1Expanding Education Abroad at U.S. Community Colleges: