Foreign students flock to KCC
International students boost community colleges
SECOND OF TWO PARTS
Kapiolani Community College is attracting an increasing number of foreign students who see the campus as an attractive, safe and cheap alternative to the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Already, the community college near Diamond Head is among the top 40 in the U.S. in terms of foreign enrollment percentage, with 551 students last year.
College officials are actively recruiting foreign students, who make up 8 percent of the student body but contribute 36 percent of the tuition. More than half of the students intend to transfer to UH-Manoa.
Listen in the 'Iliahi courtyard next to the Subway store at Kapiolani Community College and you'll hear people conversing in Japanese and Korean, as well as English and a little bit of Hawaiian.
Donation fuels college outreach
Hawaii's community colleges' efforts to attract international students and provide Hawaii students with opportunities to go abroad stem from a $1 million donation from Paul S. Honda, a community leader and businessman.
His endowment in 1999 established the Paul S. Honda International Center at Kapiolani Community College, which services all seven community colleges and also helps bring in students from China, Japan and other countries for short-term training in Hawaii.
It is part of a nationwide trend: international students spending their first two years at a community college, rather going straight to a four-year university.
The trend appears to be accelerating as community colleges here are starting to recruit overseas students.
Community colleges are benefiting financially from the increase, since resident students are heavily subsidized by state government funds and international students pay full tuition.
Last year, according to Kapiolani Community College, about 551 foreign students paid more than $3 million in tuition.
Even though international students make up only 8 percent of Kapiolani Community College's student body, they contributed 36 percent of the tuition and fee income the school received last year, the school said.
International and mainland students pay $281 per credit-hour versus resident tuition of $56 per credit-hour.
Kapiolani has the largest international student population among the seven Hawaii community colleges, and its international student population ranks among the top 40 community colleges in the country, according to the NAFSA Association of International Educators.
Kapiolani sends a staff member to college fairs in Japan to recruit students. It also hopes to hire a Korean-speaking staff member to recruit in South Korea.
"Eighty percent of the parents (in Japan) have been to Hawaii at least once in their lives," said Takashi Miyaki, an education specialist at the Honda International Center at Kapiolani, who travels annually to Japan. "It's easier for parents to send their kids to Hawaii."
Tomomi Ito, from Koichi, Japan, said she wanted to go abroad for school but did not get accepted to UH-Manoa.
A college adviser told her about Kapiolani Community College.
"My father said he wants me to go Hawaii because Hawaii is a much safer place (than the mainland United States)," Ito said. "Only if I go to Hawaii would they let me go."
Ito said her family is not wealthy, so the cheaper tuition at Kapiolani makes it easier for her family to pay for her schooling.
Kapiolani is also attracting students who come specifically for its culinary and visitor industry programs. But more than half of the international students at Kapiolani want to transfer to UH-Manoa, Miyaki said.
Exact numbers of foreign students in the UH system are difficult to obtain because students from Micronesia and some other Pacific island countries do not need student visas to live in Hawaii.
But based on what information is available, the number of international students at the seven UH community colleges increased about 37 percent between fall 2000 and fall 2005 to 826 from 603. Nationally, international student enrollment in community colleges increased about 8 percent during that same time period.
There were just a handful of international students in 2003 before Leeward Community College began offering special English courses geared toward helping foreign students; today there are about 80 from 20 different countries, said Becky George, international coordinator at Leeward.
Hawaii Community College on the Big Island also saw its international student population jump to 73 in 2005 from 25 in 2000.
Maui Community College averages about 70 international students a year.
Having students from other countries on campus also gives local students an opportunity to broaden their education through interaction.
"It gives you a better view on the world," said Philip Matias, who is taking Japanese-language classes at Kapiolani Community College. "You start looking at the world differently."
At Kapiolani, Matias is a member of the International Cafe, which provides opportunities for local and international students to interact and volunteer for service projects.
However, it is not clear how many students take advantage of the opportunity.
"A lot of them (local students) are very provincial in their way of thinking," said Kalani Fujiwara, a political science instructor and a coordinator of the International Cafe.
As the international and mainland student population increases, it is also running up against a Board of Regents policy that limits out-of-state enrollment at community colleges to 15 percent of the total student body.
It is a policy that will be reviewed by the board in the next few months.