Promoting U.S. Community Colleges in Sweden: From the Perspective of Swedish Education Agents

Promoting U.S. Community Colleges in Sweden: From the Perspective of Swedish Education Agents

Ashley Marie Sansotta (Hillsborough Community College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3451-8.ch017

Abstract

In this study, the author used a qualitative case study research method to explore Swedish educational agents' perspectives of the community college system in the United States, their experiences in marketing community colleges in Sweden, and the factors that may lead to or prohibit the success in recruiting Swedish students for U.S. community colleges. The findings revealed that agents are aware of the key benefits of attending a U.S. community college: affordability, simple admissions process, and university transfer options. Disadvantages were also noted, which included the absence of experiencing a typical American college experience and lack of on-campus housing. The marketing tactics that the agencies used ranged in size and scope. The results of this study can be used to develop successful international student recruitment and marketing strategies in Sweden.
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Introduction

Sometimes referred to as junior colleges, community colleges in the United States offer a two–year degree, called the associate's degree. The Princeton Review (2017) notes, “These schools rarely consider standardized test scores, though certain classes or programs may have more stringent admissions requirements. A student with a strong academic record at a community college can then transfer to a more expensive state or private college for two more years to earn a bachelor’s degree” (para. 2). Furthermore, the Princeton Review lists the benefits of attending a community college, which includes affordability and strong student support. International students are increasingly becoming more aware of the community college option, as community colleges in the United States began recruiting international students only recently. Some community colleges are enhancing their international recruitment strategies by examining the ethical and strategic use of contracted agents as a resource for comprehensive internationalization. Hillsborough Community College (HCC) works with agencies across the globe.

As a recruitment manager at HCC, the researcher observed a sharp increase in the number of Swedish students enrolled in community colleges in the United States. Open Doors (Institute of International Education, 2017) illustrates this surge in its data, reporting the top 25 places of origin of international students enrolled in U.S. community colleges. After not making the list for the 2009-2010 academic year, Sweden has since climbed the charts. Moving from a rank of 20 in 2010-2011, Sweden now maintains a stronghold on the chart of top 25 places of origin of international students enrolled in U.S. community colleges, currently at a rank of 17 in the latest Open Doors data released for the 2016-2017 academic year (Institute of International Education, 2017). Moreover, out of the total number of Swedish students who studied in the United States in the 2016-2017 academic year, 26.2 percent of those students studied at a community college (see Table 1).

Table 1.
Swedish students enrolled in U.S. community colleges

Note. Adapted from Open Doors Data: Special Reports: Community College Data Resources, by the Institute of International Education, 2017, Washington, DC: IIE.

The researcher observed this increase in its early stages and began discussing this observation with colleagues at professional conferences. After the healthy dialogue continued within the shared leadership roles on committees in various international associations, the author decided to explore the potential to target the Swedish market to recruit Swedish students.

This strategic decision to focus on Sweden produced impressive results. Through nurturing agency partnerships in Sweden, Swedish student enrollment at HCC increased dramatically, in less than two years. Examining the last five years of results, in the fall 2012 semester, only one Swedish student was enrolled at HCC. Now, in the fall 2017 semester, there are 15 Swedish students enrolled at HCC. This growth stems from the decision to use specific promotional tactics and collaborate in recruitment activities with Swedish agents, such as digital marketing campaigns and numerous in-country visits. As the writer’s expertise in the Swedish market progressed, it resulted in a considerable amount of interest in the role that agencies play in recruiting Swedish students to U.S. community colleges.

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