Two year colleges and international education

Lately, many international students are choosing to study at two-year colleges, or community colleges.  I noticed this a few years ago when some of the Japanese students I taught began looking for colleges to attend.  Why?

Cost.  The cost of college is not cheap, and international students end up paying full fees usually.

For example, here in Japan, according to a survey by Benesse, an education research company, cost is the main reason that Japanese students give up on studying overseas.  Not surprisingly, cost is also the biggest cause of concern for those that do.

Since the cost of attending a two year college is considerably less than that of a four year college, going to a two year colleges is an attractive choice.

Let’s look at some statistics:

According to QS Rankings, a well-known site for international education, the average cost for a private college in the US per year is 28,500.  According to Get Schooled, another college site, public colleges are about 9,000 a year.

And two year colleges?  They average about 3,000 a year.  That’s a 300% difference.

(Averages from QS Rankings and Get Schooled)

Comparison of cost of two year and four year universities, USA


If they go the two year college route, international students go to the college for two years and then transfer to a four year college.  This means, if we figure that the colleges are average cost, the savings would be 12,000 dollars.

That is not small change.

Remember that international students pay full tuition.  They also need to travel home on long vacations, usually.  They need food, books, and so on as other students do.  Most also require English classes to get them up to speed for classes in the US.

Finally, international students have to buy things like refrigerators, bedding, microwaves, and so on that most US students can borrow from Mom or Dad and bring to school with them.

12,000 dollar bonus for attending a two-year school for the first two years of college!
12,000 dollar bonus for attending a two-year school for the first two years of college!

Wisely, some two year colleges have made it easier for international students to take advantage of this system and cost difference.

Several things have been done.

For example, for students from Japan, there are some US two year colleges that allow students to begin studying in April or May because graduation in Japan is usually in March.  This is great for Japanese students because most of them do not want to wait to begin until the US admissions in September.

Many two year schools make it easier for students to transfer to a four year school, and they publicize this information well.

Poster for a Study Abroad Fair in Japan

Some schools join the “Study Abroad Fairs” that are held overseas.  For example, during the summer vacations and holidays here in Japan, there are a large number of “Study Abroad Fairs.”

Of course, where there is a need for information and money involved, there is also a large number of companies willing to help you out.

Several companies work as middle-men, introducing colleges to locals.  They give advice and act as information centers for colleges in other countries.

Wise colleges will take advantage of these companies.

Since most international students who attend a two year college go on to a four year college, naturally, four year colleges also recruit students from these two year schools.

The reason for this is simple.  Student would have attended two years already.  They have proven themselves.

Another reason to attend a two year school is that this gives the students time.  Most students who go to college in any country do not know what they want to major in.  With a two year college, students can take general courses for two years and explore their options.

For international students, two year colleges also offer time to get used to life in the US.  Who knows?  They may not like it, or they may decide that it just does not suit them.  It happens.  But if that is the case, with a two year school, they are out a lot less money.

All in all, two year colleges offer several advantages for the overseas student.  While they may not be for everyone, they are worth considering.