Edmonds Community College had record number of foreign students in 2007-08

EDMONDS — Student tutors translate science homework into Vietnamese and Chinese for new arrivals. Classes on English as a second language are in high demand.

More and more students from tiny villages and major cities around the world are leaving home to study at Edmonds Community College.

A record number of international students attended the college during the 2007-08 school year, and college officials expect the trend to continue.

Of the estimated 19,000 students who attended Edmonds Community College last year, 788 were from outside the U.S. That’s up from 600 international students in 2006-07, and a 10-year-low of 556 in 2003-04.

“The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 scared the whole world of travel, and our international enrollment went down after that,” said David Cordell, dean of EdCC’s international education division. “The worldwide economy has been strong the last couple of years.”

Travelers are also becoming more comfortable with the U.S. government’s post-9/11 security procedures, and the government recently relaxed student visa standards, making it easier for foreigners to study here, Cordell said.

International enrollment is rising at community colleges across the country, he said. Community colleges appeal to international students because they generally provide a cheaper way to learn English and earn college credit than traditional four-year colleges.

“Edmonds is no different in that regard from other colleges in the United States,” Cordell said. “These are international phenomena. Everybody has seen that.”

EdCC’s mix of international and local students appealed to Indonesian student William Sutanto, 19.

“I chose Edmonds because of the balance,” he said. “I talked to my father and I told him, ‘I do not want there to be too many Indonesians because I will not speak English. I will mingle with Indonesians.’”

In Edmonds, he was able to live with a local Indonesian and serve as president of the Indonesian Club but still practice his English and maintain friendships with Americans.

Struggling to keep up with requests from foreign students for college housing, Edmonds Community College plans to begin building its first dormitory this summer.

The dorm is scheduled to house 181 students beginning in the fall of 2009. Though all students would be eligible to stay there, college officials expect the dorm to especially appeal to international students.

Between 60 percent and 70 percent of the 44 students who rent apartments from the college are international students, Cordell said.

Edmonds Community College has one of the largest populations of international students in the state. Everett Community College, by contrast, has had about 40 to 60 international students each of the past six years.

EdCC works to establish relationships with schools, student travel agencies and Web sites around the globe. In June, college leaders spent two weeks in Asia building partnerships with colleges and businesses in Japan, Vietnam and China.

Last year, students from 45 countries attended EdCC, with the most coming from Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia, Cordell said.

Trung Nguyen heard about Edmonds Community College from a travel agency in his native Vietnam. Nguyen had dreamed of studying abroad, and the agent he was working with recommended EdCC, in part because the college’s high school completion program seemed like a good fit for Nguyen, then 16.

Nguyen arrived in Edmonds exhausted from the journey and completely overwhelmed. He had missed orientation and didn’t know what to do.

“I came here the first time and I worried about everything,” he said. “I worried about how to check the classes, how to (understand) credits and college majors.”

His first stop on campus was to the International Student Services Center, an old house on the edge of campus that has several rooms with computers and offices. Staff at the center connected him with advisers to explain credits and college majors. They helped him find an apartment and enroll in an English class designed to help international students learn academic English. The school offers five levels of classes on English as a second language.

Now Nguyen, a 17-year-old nursing student, works at the center helping new students adjust.

The center and ECC’s long-standing history with international students helps attract new foreign students. Edmonds Community College began recruiting foreign students nearly 30 years ago.

College leaders tend to like international students because they bring both culture and money to the school. They pay out-of-state tuition and must demonstrate their ability to pay for college in order to qualify for visas.

“It’s a reflection of how our community is connected to the world that we have people from abroad come here,” Cordell said. “We live in an area of the world that has a lot of international connections. Boeing and Microsoft couldn’t exist without global connections.”

As work on the new residence hall begins, Cordell hopes EdCC’s appeal continues to grow both locally and around the world.

Reporter Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3292 or kmanry@heraldnet.com.

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