Clearing the Hurdle: The Relationship Between Institutional Profiles and Community College Study Abroad

Clearing the Hurdle: The Relationship Between Institutional Profiles and Community College Study Abroad

Melissa Whatley (University of Georgia, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6252-8.ch006
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The purpose of this chapter is twofold. First, it aims to call attention to the fact that study abroad does take place in the community college sector. Second, this study aims at modeling the relationship between institutional profile characteristics and variations in study abroad participation at community colleges. In this sense, it addresses community college students' ability to access education abroad using the institution as the unit of analysis. Specifically, this study employs data from both the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to examine the role institutional characteristics, such as an institution's gender and race/ethnicity composition and its location, play in community college students' participation in study abroad. The hurdle model analytic technique adopted here allows for the examination of these factors' relationship to both an institution's provision of study abroad opportunity and the percentage of students that participate. Results have implications for both policymakers and practitioners who aim to increase the prominence of education abroad in the two-year sector.
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Community college students comprise an underrepresented student population in U.S. study abroad. Even though study abroad has been offered at community colleges since 1967 (Zhang, 2011), students enrolled at public two-year institutions represented only 1.7% of students studying abroad in the 2015-16 academic year, while they comprised approximately 32% of total enrollments in U.S. higher education (Institute of International Education, 2017; National Center for Education Statistics, 2016). Although Blair, Phinney, and Phillipe (2001) note a considerable increase in international practices at community colleges between 1995 and 2000, and Zhang (2011) reports a fourfold increase in the number of community college students studying abroad between the 1999-00 and 2007-08 academic years, this sector continues to face considerable obstacles to sending students abroad. Indeed, the average number of students studying abroad annually from public associates-granting institutions has remained between 45 and 50 each year since the 2008-09 academic year (author’s calculations, Institute of International Education, 2017).

Despite low levels of participation, study abroad represents the most common strategy for internationalization among community colleges (Green & Siaya, 2005). These comprehensive internationalization efforts seek to incorporate cross-cultural elements into community college coursework and academic programs (Raby, 2007). The specific provision of study abroad opportunities to students enrolled at community colleges is particularly relevant for students who never intend or are not able to transfer to the four-year post-secondary sector (Raby & Valeau, 2007; Frost & Raby, 2009; Zhang, 2011; Raby, 2012). Indeed, Raby and Valeau (2007) view the inclusion of international components in the two-year sector as central to the community college mission to provide access to quality educational opportunities to populations that are often denied such opportunities at more traditional, four-year institutions. These authors conclude that the open access philosophy of the community college is placed at risk if students attending four-year institutions have access educational experiences, such as international programs, that enhance their degree quality and competitiveness, but students attending community colleges do not. That is, the provision of certain educational activities such as study abroad only at institutions with a competitive admissions process (e.g., four-year institutions) effectively excludes certain segments of the student population from these opportunities. Concerning study abroad in particular, Raby (2008) posits that “community colleges that do not offer education abroad are not meeting their mandate of preparing students for their future roles in a global economy, where international literacy is a basic skill needed in the workplace” (9). Nevertheless, despite a growing interest in international activities such as study abroad among community college students, international education remains very much at the periphery of practice and policy in the two-year sector (Oberstein-Delvalle, 1999; Raby, 2008; Robertson & Blasi, 2017).

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