Enhancing Study Abroad Participation and Choices of Destination at Community Colleges

Enhancing Study Abroad Participation and Choices of Destination at Community Colleges

Monija Amani (Georgetown University, USA) and Mikyong Minsun Kim (The George Washington University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6252-8.ch009
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This chapter addresses the findings of a multilayered study regarding perceptions of study abroad coordinators and students related to community college students' decisions to engage in global programs abroad and the factors that motivate their selection of a destination. In-depth interviews of study abroad program coordinators and students from three community colleges located in urban, suburban, and rural areas provided rich and diverse perspectives regarding students' access and engagement in study abroad programs and the reasons that affect their choices of destinations. Findings showed synchronicity and alignment between the study abroad coordinators' and students' perspectives. However, study abroad coordinators revealed that institutional administrators or leaders who have established connections with certain destinations influence program and destination offerings, which in turn broadens or limits students' selection of study abroad choices. Discussions and implications related to community college students, faculty, institutional leaders, and policymakers provide insight on how to make study abroad more accessible to community college students and expand their choice of destination.
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At the onset of the 21st century, the geopolitical, economic, and technological forces across the globe have driven colleges and universities to internationalize their curriculum and implement policies that are considered valuable in better preparing students for success in a rising global economy. To address this demand, higher education institutions have focused on internationalizing student experiences on many levels (Carlson et al., 1990; Knight, 2004; Opp & Gesetti, 2014). Participation in education abroad programs is one way in which U.S. colleges and universities have endeavored to provide global opportunities that will help students lay the foundation of an international education by expanding their intercultural exposure, awareness, and understanding during and beyond college (Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program, 2005). Internationalization efforts through study abroad are, however, minimal at community colleges compared with efforts at four-year institutions. Based on the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) Open Doors Report (2017), in the 2016–2017 academic year, 279,792 bachelor’s-seeking students studied abroad, while only 90,802 students from community colleges participated in education abroad programs. Salisbury, Umbach, Paulsen, and Pascarella (2009) further maintain that the number of community college students intending to study abroad is 30% less than the number of students at liberal arts colleges intending to study abroad. If community colleges are expected to provide their students with access and opportunities to global programs, with the purposes of training them to have an international mindset, gaining intercultural awareness, and developing their proficiency in foreign languages, the low participation rate of students engaging in study abroad programs at these institutions must be examined.

Students’ decisions regarding their choice of study abroad destination have also raised concerns among educators (Abraham Lincoln Commission, 2005). To equalize choice of destination, The Lincoln Commission’s (2005) Recommendation II suggested that efforts must be made to increase study abroad participation among students enrolled in community colleges and to expand their travel to nontraditional destinations. If the purpose of enhancing study abroad engagement at community colleges is to expand students’ knowledge and understanding of other cultures, then students’ choices of destination and influential decision factors need to be further explored and understood.

Community colleges have been an integral component of the American higher education system since 1901. With the mission of providing various educational paths to students who come from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds (Brint & Karabel, 1989; Kasper, 2002-2003; Cohen & Brawer, 2003; Bragg & Townsend, 2006), today, these institutions have grown tremendously, serving over 12 million students across the nation (American Association of Community Colleges, 2018). Students who begin their academic pursuits at the community college level can have different academic and professional objectives. While some choose to transfer credits to a four-year institution, others may select a different educational or vocational path that leads to a terminal degree at the community college. Despite students’ academic and professional goals, today’s globalized world is making it necessary for community college students to develop and enhance their understanding of intercultural issues that could affect their personal, social, and professional spheres.

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