Community Colleges offer international students a cost effective entry point into their higher education pursuits via low tuition rates on the 1st & 2nd year of classes (freshman and sophomore in the U.S.), often with the added bonus of an easier transition to the U.S. or Canadian style academics, experts say. Students then transfer to four-year schools to complete their bachelor’s degree. 

In this blog post, lets do a deep dive & answer a few questions on Canadian community colleges and their appeal to students.

What is a community college? How is it different from university or career college?

Community colleges in Canada are government-regulated post-secondary institutions offering 1- to 2-year academic and pre-professional certificates, diplomas, 2-year associate’s degrees, 4-year applied degrees and other 3- to 4-year specialized bachelor’s degrees. The length of the study depends on the credential taken and whether it on a full-time, part-time or online basis. Community colleges differ from universities in their smaller class size and focus on a combination of academic and industry-centred programs and co-op/internship opportunities. The academics are generally more comprehensive than in the shorter and more vocationally-oriented programs at career colleges, and community colleges offer specific university transfer programs that allow students to transfer credits toward university programs.

Are community colleges less expensive for international students than universities? 
Both universities and community colleges in Canada charge special international student tuition. Tuition and other fees vary from school to school and province to province, but on average community colleges charge less for international tuition than universities in Canada. For example, the average undergraduate university fees for international students in British Columbia are about $13,500, while the average international fees for community colleges in BC are about $10,500.

How big are the classes at community colleges? 
This depends on the school and the program. Some community college programs have extremely limited enrolment, while others accept more students. Unlike universities which can end up with classes of several thousand students, most community colleges have a cap on class size. Generally, community college and CEGEP class sizes average between 20 and 45 students.

What housing options do community colleges in Canada provide for international students? 
Some community colleges have on-campus residences or dormitories, while others are small and do not have on-campus housing. Community colleges that accept international students usually have people to help organize a home stay or other off-campus housing.

Is financial aid available for international students to study at community college in Canada? 
Yes, but not always from the school itself. Many community colleges in Canada offer internally and externally administered scholarships for incoming international students. Criteria may include academic success, artistic merit, athletic excellence, community involvement, references from instructors, or financial need. Scholarship and award programs are also administered by the federal government, provincial governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and some community groups in the college’s city or town. Bursaries are also sometimes available for international students who demonstrate financial need and reasonable academic standing.

Can community college credits be transferred to a university in Canada?
Most community colleges in Canada have transfer agreements with various universities within Canada. Credit transfer between institutions within Canada is usually possible, but it depends on the program.

Can international students participate in co-op education? 
International students are encouraged to participate in co-op education, but must have the proper work permit that allows them to work in Canada. When accepted into co-op, students can obtain a letter from the college stating that they will be participating in a co-op program. This will need to be attached to the work permit application. Other than this, the same rules apply to international students as to other students.

What is an applied degree? 
The 4-year applied degree credential was developed in response to labour market demand in areas that require more than just 2 years of diploma or associate’s degree study. Applied degrees are specialized bachelor’s degrees and are referred to as, for example, Bachelor of Applied Business or Bachelor of Applied Arts. The difference between a general bachelor’s degree and an applied degree is that the focus of applied degree programs is on advanced study in career or technical fields, for instance, a Bachelor of Applied Arts in interior design, criminal justice, film and media production, and other areas that lead to direct employment. Applied degree programs normally include six semesters of instruction and two semesters of work experience.

What exactly is a CEGEP? 
CEGEP stands for the French name for this school system: Collège d’enseignement général et professionel. The CEGEP system is a public, post-secondary education system that is unique to Quebec and dates from 1967. Situated in all regions of the province of Québec, the 48 CEGEPs are divided into 43 French-language and 5 English-language colleges. Quebec students enter CEGEP after completing 11 years of schooling (6 years of elementary school and 5 years of secondary school). CEGEPs offer 2-year pre-university programs in areas like Social Sciences, Pure and Applied Sciences, Commerce, Fine Arts and others, as well as 2- to 3-year technical career programs which prepare students for employment. Regardless of their program, students must take also general education courses including humanities, literature and physical education. CEGEPs do not offer degrees; rather, graduates receive a diploma of collegial studies.

In summary, community colleges offer numerous benefits for international students
Community colleges offer affordable tuition fees, the option of taking a degree or transferring credit toward a Canadian university program, small classes, a safe and close community environment, programs partly designed by industry leaders, bridging programs to help meet institution and program requirements, employment training and work opportunities, industry connections, and extensive language and personal support for international students. Many community colleges in Canada boast high employment rates for their graduates.

Benefits of Community Colleges For International Students

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