CCRP Experience: Applying the Community College Model in Afghanistan
The Community College Residency Program is an opportunity offered to current Humphrey Fellows as a supplement to their Humphrey year and includes a one-week learning/sharing experience at a community college in the United States. Selected Fellows will gain an opportunity to increase their professional network in the United States and play a role in a community college’s internationalization plan. Humphrey Fellow Angela Niazmand traveled to Pellissippi State Community College and shares her reflection here.
My February 2015 visit to Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee was an outstanding opportunity to learn about the American higher education system. During my visit, I attended the weekly meeting of senior executives, observed the tasks of the registrar’s office, toured both the host college and the University of Tennessee campuses, and attended Rotary club meetings as well as a Student Life event and graduation ceremony meeting. The schedule prepared by the college helped me clearly understand the model of community colleges and how they operate.
I was invited to attend some classes as a guest speaker to answer questions from the faculty and students about Afghanistan. This actually was my favorite memory while at Pellissippi. I was bombarded with questions from students about my home country. Even after the class, I was surrounded by a group of young women who wanted to know more about the life of women in Afghanistan and how early marriage, domestic abuse and insecurity interrupt access to education. I enjoyed answering their thoughtful questions. I was impressed by their enthusiasm and willingness to know more about my country and other world issues.
During the visit, I learned about the community college model, its interrelation with the community, how it provides youth with affordable and quality higher education opportunities near their work place or residence and creates a strong starting point to obtain a four-year degree for those who are willing to continue further. Community colleges also assist in a smooth transition process for transfer students and collaborate with universities to closely coordinate the transition with strong articulation agreements or common core courses.
In Afghanistan, generally students with associate degrees have difficulty transferring their credits to universities. Those who would like to attend universities either re-apply for admission and start as freshman or only a limited number of their courses may get accepted for transfer coursework. Associate degree is considered part of a student’s secondary education and is administered through the Ministry of Education. All four-year and graduate schools are considered post-secondary and are overseen by the Ministry of Higher Education. Fortunately, this way of thinking is changing and efforts are being made to move all associate programs under the Ministry of Higher Education. In contrast, all courses in the Tennessee Community College system are nationally accredited post-secondary education. Community colleges in the U.S. offer reputable programs with high quality that a lot of students are eager to join. After graduation, they can easily transfer their college credits to other universities to continue their studies at a higher level. In the U.S. many students choose community colleges due to the quality and diversity of programs offered and more affordable cost compared to four-year colleges.
Most families cannot afford higher education in Afghanistan. Some students have families and would like to go to a two-year college so that they can join the workforce to help out with the expenses. I believe the U.S. community college model is a good fit for Afghanistan! It is affordable and workforce focused. It allows students to receive more attention, learn new skills and is a bridge to further education. Given that, having the Afghan colleges nationally accredited and making the associate degree programs competitive with the four-year programs would standardize curriculum and boost the quality of education in Afghanistan to meet the growing demands of the constantly changing job market that needs skilled employees. We would also be able to educate more youths in the community and provide college students with the option to continue to a four year-degree programs. Two-year colleges are also able to coordinate with universities as well as the Ministry of Higher Education to bridge the credit transfer of their students to universities and smooth the transition.
This rewarding experience was one of the many great opportunities that the Humphrey Program offers to its Fellows. To conclude, by visiting Pellissippi College, I found out that the college offers quality education and friendly environment where everyone is able to receive the needed support and get an education. Thanks IIE and the U.S. Department of State for your support!!!
In the photo: Angela Niazmand gives a presentation during her CCRP experience