Community College as the Starting Point of Undergraduate Journey in the US

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A community college campus
The campus of Linn-Benton Community College. Photo credit: Fraya Saquina.

Going straight to a big university abroad after completing high school seems to be the path most international students are familiar with, yet it is not the only path they can take. Fraya Saquina, an International Student Advisor at Linn-Benton Community College, shares her perspective below on how community college could become a cheaper option for international students who want to jumpstart their tertiary-level education in the United States. Fraya summarizes the story of Jeckline, a student from Papua, to give us a better understanding of the benefits of a community college education, including affordable costs, scholarship opportunities, and a chance to transfer to bigger universities.

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Jeckline Gobai is one of four Papuan students who are currently studying in Oregon through the TITIP program (Training Indonesians for Transition to Institutional Programs), a full scholarship program sponsored by the Paniai Regency in Papua to encourage more Papuans to learn English and embark on the undergraduate program in the US. Jeckline started her English program with an intensive English course at INTO Oregon State University. After completing the English program, she decided to start her undergraduate studies in Health and Promotion Behavior at Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC).

For most students, universities have been a popular and well-known choice when talking about higher education. Reference to community college was less heard but is gradually becoming more well-known when talking about higher education in America. Most often, prospective undergraduate international students are not aware of the concept of community colleges. However, starting their college studies at a community college benefits international students.

Woman of dark skin color smiling
Jeckline Gobai, an international student of Papuan origin, smiles on campus. Photo credit: Linn-Benton school archive.

Community colleges exist to serve the community where they are located. The main mission of community college is to give access to education that is otherwise more difficult to obtain. Not only is the cost of attending community college more affordable than universities, but there are also fewer barriers to entry compared to university in terms of other requirements such as college entrance examinations (SAT). This is also applicable to international students.

When talking to Jeckline about why she decided to attend a community college rather than starting directly at the university, she mentions a few important things:

  • School Environment

Jeckline cited the school environment as being the biggest factor in this decision, as LBCC is considered smaller, more inclusive, and less intimidating to adjust to the college environment compared to starting at a big university. In LBCC, there are between 20 – 50 students per class, while at the university, some classes typically have 50 – 300 students and are often conducted in large auditoriums. Being on a smaller campus can help navigate the new education system. Students can be better prepared when they transfer to a larger university. In community colleges, students have more access to communicate with their professors and get help as needed. In the case of international students, this could be more advantageous because it helps to understand the classes better while adjusting to full English courses. In community college, students also have easy access to tutors and other resources. At LBCC, there are free tutors for many subjects including Math, Writing, Chemistry, and Biology, and access to free academic coaching and advising. Jeckline has taken advantage of these available resources to be successful in her classes.  She feels happy that she can connect easily with her professors and consult a tutoring center for math and writing assignments.

orientasi
Student orientation day on campus. Photo Credit: Fraya Saquina.
  • Campus activities and involvement

Due to the smaller school size, it’s easier for students to get to know more people and get involved in various campus activities. Jeckline has been actively participating in international student activities since she started her first term. She and her fellow students get to know each other very well. There is a good opportunity for students who are studying in a community college to get out of their comfort zones and join different activities as well as find part-time jobs on campus. Being an international student at LBCC opens up many doors to getting to know other students and staff members easier and becoming successful in achieving their goals. Adjusting to college life can be hard, as students are introduced to a different routine. As a student, you are expected to be responsible and proactive. That is why starting in a community college can have such a positive impact on an international student’s academic career as they will get all the support they need while learning how to navigate this new environment.

  • Transfer path to university and quality of classes

One fact that students often don’t know is that throughout the university education, many classes can be taken in the community college. The classes are more affordable, yet they are the same classes you would take in a 4-year university during your first two years. The quality of courses is not inferior to the classes that Jeckline would have taken at the university level. Many times, professors who teach at the university also teach at the local community college. These classes are the core classes of the degree programs, and they are designed to be taken during your first two years of education. Since LBCC is located on the West Coast, students have access to transfer to universities on the West Coast, including in California. Jeckline plans to remain in Oregon and will transfer to Oregon State University for her third and fourth years of study. Students can also transfer to other states all around the U.S., including high-rated universities.

As for students who don’t have full sponsors like Jeckline, LBCC offers partial scholarships exclusively for international students – which is not very common in the U.S. at the community college level. LBCC currently offers three types of scholarships for international students:

  • International Merit Scholarship: merit-based scholarships for students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above
  • Global Explorer Scholarship: automatically awarded to students who are citizens of certain countries, including Indonesia
  • Global Ambassador Scholarship: tuition waiver worth half of the required credits for international students who participate in the ambassador program

These scholarships are available for new and current students to apply for. They are beneficial to help cover some of the expenses for international students. LBCC also offers other types of scholarships, which you can apply for once you are fully admitted to the college. Studying abroad can be a big investment, but LBCC offers many opportunities to help students.

Linn-Benton Community College is committed to assisting international students like Jeckline and other Indonesian students to succeed in their academic journey in the United States. We are expecting more TITIP program students who will start their college studies at LBCC in the future.

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Editor: Nefertiti Karismaida

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