There are more than 17,000 US students pursuing college degrees in the UK, a number which has grown by 17 percent since 2009.
Many are attracted by the possibility of broadening their international experience without struggling with a language barrier. Others relish the chance of learning at world-famous institutions older than the United States itself.
I just completed my 19th year as director of college counseling at Kents Hill School in Maine, 15 years of which also included building and directing its international program. As I close this chapter and begin my next as director of academic advising and college counseling at The American School in London, I am awed at the rapidly changing landscape of international students in the US, particularly at our high schools, and the dire need for more professional development on both the secondary school and college side in support of this growing population of students.
Community colleges are an integral facet of the US higher education system. Serving nearly 6.3 million students, these public, two-year institutions offer a variety of courses and degree programs at a third of the price charged by four-year colleges. Because most community colleges have transfer agreements with baccalaureate-granting institutions, many students who seek a bachelor’s degree initially matriculate at a community college to take advantage of its cost-saving benefits. In fact, data from the National Student Clearinghouse show that 49 percent of students who completed a degree at a four-year university in 2015-16 had previously enrolled in a community college during the last 10 years.
Community colleges have typically established transfer agreements with local and regional institutions. These include “2+2” pathway programs, which guarantee admission for students at the partner four-year college if specific academic requirements are met, and articulation agreements that delineate how specific coursework will transfer between programs.
Results from a recent survey of 140 community colleges conducted by NACAC and Community Colleges for International Development (CCID) indicate a growing number of these colleges are also interested in pursuing transfer partnerships with universities abroad.
Ten cities. Thirteen days. From London to Shanghai to meet with newly admitted students. It’s my version of TheAmazing Race, but without the $1 million at the finish line.
The first question I’m asked when discussing my itinerary is, “Are you nuts?!” The answer, from my perspective anyway, is, “No, I love doing it and I’ve found two weeks to be the perfect trip length.”
The second question is either, “Wow, how are people feeling about our country?” or “Do international students still want to come to university in the US?” Like any good admission officer, my answer is, “It depends.”
It depends on the country.
China is a vital market for many universities, and the political climate didn’t appear to be too much of a concern in Beijing and Shanghai. There, families were much more concerned about the “usual” topics—safety, academics, and post-graduation opportunities. I was surprised by the number of families more concerned about the legalization of marijuana in California than the political situation! Having said that, I had large-group and one-on-one conversations about the international environment in every other city on the trip—London, Dubai, Mumbai, Delhi, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, and Seoul. Families are legitimately concerned about whether their child will even get a visa, how welcomed international students will be upon arrival, and whether they will be targets for bullying and/or racial discrimination on campus or in the surrounding area. Not too surprisingly, this was a HUGE topic in India, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore, all countries with a large Indian population. And all countries that add to our international diversity on campus.
Nearly four in 10 colleges have seen drops in applications from international students, and recruitment officials report that families are exhibiting “a great deal of concern” about how their students will be treated in the US, according to early findings from a recent survey of more than 250 US colleges and universities.
The survey — conducted last month by AACRAO in cooperation with NACAC, International ACAC, and three other higher education associations — shows that 39 percent of respondents reported an overall drop in international applications for fall 2017, with the highest number of institutions reporting declines in applications from the Middle East.
Institutions also reported drops in applications from students in India and China. Currently, those two countries are home to nearly half of all international students studying in the US.
Studying in a new country can be an exciting, inspirational, and mind-opening experience (trust me, I’ve been there). But, let’s not kid ourselves, it can also be challenging at times (trust me, I’ve been there). Getting used to a new lifestyle, culture, and food — “you mean, you guys really eat that?” — as well as taking time out to explore everything an adopted country has to offer are just some of the distractions students might encounter. Perhaps the greatest challenge, though, is understanding the norms and expectations of a different education system.
This is where pathways courses come in. Many universities across the UK offer such courses to foreign students before they start their degree program. Operating like a bridge program, a pathways course will develop a student’s study skills and subject knowledge while getting them used to the UK university environment. These valuable educational offerings allow students to hit the ground running when it really counts, giving them their best chance for success in their subsequent degree program.
The effects of President Donald Trump’s most recent executive order are already being felt at high schools and colleges across the country.
The action temporarily bans individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US or obtaining visas, including F-1 and J-1 student visas.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and other media are closely monitoring this developing story. The coverage below explores the order’s effect on students, scholars, and communities.