US Community Colleges Still Popular Among Vietnamese But Gap Has Closed with Four-Year Schools

top 10 CC enrollment
IIE Open Doors 2017

According to IIE’s Open Doors 2017 report, based on a survey administered in fall 2016, Viet Nam ranks 2nd in the number of international students enrolled at US community colleges (CCs) at 9.9% of the total (96,472). 

Open Doors 2017 cover
Open Doors 2017 Cover (IIE)

There are a total of 9,551 Vietnamese studying at two-year institutions, many in California, Texas, and Washington, and most with the intention of following the 2+2 model, transferring to a four-year institution after two (2) years and completing a bachelor’s degree. (That number had decreased to 9,077 by the end of the 2017 academic year, according to the May 2017 SEVIS update.)

Since the total number of Vietnamese at US colleges and universities was 22,438 last year and 68% of them were undergraduates, this means that 63% were CC students.  There has, however, been a sea change in the overall enrollment picture over the last seven years.  In 2009/10, 90% of all Vietnamese undergraduates were enrolled in a CC.  (Going back another five years, there was little to no awareness of the advantages of beginning one’s US higher education experience at a CC in 2005.)  

Reasons for this dramatic shift from CCs to four-year schools include greater numbers of Vietnamese studying in the US – from 13,112 in 2009/10 to 22,438 in 2016/17, a 42% increase in six years, more four-year institutions with lower cost, and a growing ability to pay among parents.

VN students 5-17
May 2017 SEVIS by the Numbers

While there is still considerable interest in US community colleges for the usual reasons, including the high school completion program in WA, and CCs remain an important source of students for four-year institutions, the gap is closing.  As of May 2017, using SEVIS numbers, CCs and four-year schools were almost even at 30% and 29.7% of degree-seeking undergraduate enrollment, respectively.