Colleges cast a wider net
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 3, 2005 
Community campuses try to lure foreign students

Lynh Bui
Most international students coming to Arizona plan to graduate with degrees from one of the state's three universities, but a growing number are going through Maricopa Community Colleges before tossing their graduation caps in the air.

Recruiters from Maricopa Community College international programs have been flying to places such as Turkey, China and Latin America to tempt potential international students with the idea of cheaper tuition and smaller class sizes. Recruiters want to lure more international students to their campuses, hoping to increase diversity and stabilize dropping international student enrollment numbers since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"Recruiting in any way has become more important than it has before because of 9/11," said Therese Tendick, director of International Education Programs at Scottsdale Community College. "We want to create more awareness of what community colleges can do for international students."

Instead of sticking to traditional "armchair recruiting" tactics, such as sending out pamphlets or creating Web sites, schools such as Scottsdale, Mesa and Glendale community colleges have targeted international students with face-to-face encounters.

"When you travel to recruit, you build a relationship with potential students," said Ida Mansourian, director of international education at Mesa Community College. "They remember your face; they remember your

In 2003 there were about 10,300 international students in Arizona with the Maricopa Community Colleges serving nearly 5 percent of those students. The district had about 530 international students enrolled in classes in for the 2003-2004 academic year, up from nearly 470 students in 1998-1999. Mesa, Scottsdale and Glendale community colleges are the top three schools for international students in the district.

The Institute of International Education reported that about 96,000 of the nearly 580,000 total international students attended two-year institutions in the 2002-2003 academic year. Five years ago, there were about 10,000 fewer international students at community colleges.

SCC international student Freddy Chacon, 22, first came to the United States to learn English at Arizona State University but started attending SCC to save money. "I explain to my friends in Venezuela that community college is like half of a university," Chacon said. "But you do it in a cheaper way and you have more contact with the professors."

And for the colleges, "These international students bring good revenue to our college and the community," Mansourian said.

In 2003 international students contributed $209.6 million to the Arizona economy, IIE reported.

But Mansourian, Tendick and others say the intangible things international students contribute to colleges are more valuable than revenue.

"International students give a global perspective to students who might have tunnel vision about the world," Tendick said. "You cannot quantify the value of what international students give to our campus."