SCC goes global in recruitment of students
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 3, 2005
Lynh Bui

 International flavor

SCOTTSDALE - Armed with information about community colleges boasting cheap tuition and small classes, Scottsdale Community College's faculty and staff have been flying around the world. Combined with ads on Spanish-language radio stations, the school has been experimenting with marketing techniques to lure international students and non-English speakers to its campus.

 The attention has boosted the school's English as a Second Language population by almost 400 percent, and allowed the international education program to meet its goal of keeping enrollment steady after a drop in numbers following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

 About 17 percent of the 600 international students enrolled in the Maricopa County Community College District attend SCC.

 Now the district is looking at SCC's recruiting methods and is working to apply them to the other colleges.

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

 ESL coordinator John Liffiton said an increasingly global economy means both international and American students benefit from more diverse campuses.

 "If we are going to give a well-rounded education to our students, they need to be aware of what is going in the world and understanding diversity,"

Liffiton said. "What better way for us to export our ideas to other countries and get ideas from around the world than to provide a good, sound education to international students?"

 International students

 International student Freddy Chacon, 22, said he was worried that SCC would be like the technical schools in his country of Venezuela.

 But after people in the International Education Programs office explained he could transfer SCC credits, he decided to save money before returning to Arizona State University, where he had studied English.

 "Both schools use the same books, and the classes were basically the same,"

Chacon said. "SCC classes are a little smaller and more affordable."

 Trying to overcome the stigma attached with the word "college" is one of the biggest challenges for the International Education Program, said Jennifer Vinca, international student adviser at SCC.

 "The word 'college' doesn't translate well in other countries," Vinca said.

"In some countries, 'college' is what they call junior high school or vocational schools."

 "People are starting to understand the benefits of a community college," said Jose Velasco, director of international education for Maricopa Community Colleges. "You get a quality education, at less cost with a low student-to-instructor ratio."

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


"Thank goodness the bond has passed," Liffiton said. "We need more classrooms to put our ESL students."

 The November bond election granted SCC more than $62 million to build new class buildings and update facilities, a coup for the school with a growing student population and ESL program.

 ESL enrollment jumped from about 300 students in 2000 to more than 1,200 in the fall of 2004. Four years ago, the college offered 10 ESL classes each semester. Today, students representing more than 90 countries fill the college's 70 ESL classes.

 Liffiton took trips to China and Mexico in the past year to recruit students, but the bulk of the program's increase stems from intensive marketing in the Valley.

 In four years, the ESL program has branched out to serve Scottsdale's growing workforce. The college creates tailor-made classes for local businesses like hotels, restaurants and landscapers.

 "If employees want people to speak English, I want them to think ESL at SCC," Liffiton said.

 The school has also spent money on advertisements for Spanish-language radio stations and newspapers so Hispanics who don't speak English can make themselves more marketable in the workforce. Some Mexican students will take English courses at SCC so they can apply for higher-end jobs at major companies in Mexico.

 A diverse campus

 Chacon is studying global business and plans to transfer to ASU West in the spring of 2006. He said depending on Venezuela's political stability, he might want to work for a company in his home country. For now, he said he is happy to be at SCC and feels "welcome and comfortable."

 "At SCC, there is a big concentration of people from all over the Middle East, Asia, Europe and South America," Chacon said.

 Liffiton, Velasco, Tendick and others say that besides offering ways for international and ESL students to stretch tuition dollars, they hope the focused marketing will add more intangible benefits.

 Velasco said more international students "exposes local students to our global village."

 "Students begin a process of learning about other people's experiences,"

Velasco said. "It is a win-win situation; our students learn about other countries and other cultures and international students get a good education and learn about life in America."