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CNM gets federal certification to enroll international students

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The state’s largest community college could have a little foreign flair this fall.

Central New Mexico Community College for the first time can enroll international students thanks to a newly granted federal certification. The tentative goal is to have 50 such students on campus when the fall semester starts in August.

Officials say international students could bring new revenue and additional educational relevance to the Albuquerque-based institution.

“Global competency (is) a 21st-century skill,” said Diane Burke, executive director of CNM’s new Global Education office.

She said CNM’s traditional student population, 84 percent of which comes from the Albuquerque metro, can now learn alongside – and from – peers from around the world.

“This is an opportunity to have (international students) in their class, this is an opportunity to have them on their teams,” said Burke, adding that local CNM students will also now have study-abroad opportunities.

Most of the international college students coming to New Mexico wind up at the state’s four-year colleges, but some of CNM’s community college peers have been attracting them, as well.

Santa Fe Community College has accepted foreign students for about 25 years, though the school, with about 6,100 total students, gets only about 20-25 of them per year. San Juan College in Farmington also is federally certified to take international students, but currently has none attending on a student visa.

American community colleges had about 95,000 international students in the past academic year, according to Open Doors data from the Institute of International Education.

CNM has spent the past two years working toward this point, developing more English proficiency courses and talking with faculty about “internationalizing” classes with more global context and discussions.

CNM, which can enroll those on “F” and “M” student visas, also developed an application process for international students. It is also working with the University of New Mexico to possibly utilize some spare dormitory space for them.

CNM recruitment efforts were on hold until it received the federal OK from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security this month, but Burke said hundreds of people started expressing interest earlier.

The school has 350 international inquiries – many from Albuquerque-based immigrants asking on behalf of other family members who still live outside the U.S. Burke said she aims to have around 50 actually enrolled this fall, though she said predictions are difficult.

CNM’s new certification arrives amid possibly troubling trends. A recent study found that 39 percent of U.S. universities had seen a decline in international applications, particularly from the Middle East. UNM said last week that its international grad school applications are trending 16 percent lower than this point last year.

Burke said she is not overly concerned, partly because she never anticipated great interest in CNM coming from the Middle East. She expects the most activity from Latin America.

Plus, she said, CNM should be attractive based on its lower price point and its culture.

“I think we have access, support and costs in our favor,” she said.

International students would pay out-of-state tuition and fees, which total about $10,000 annually to attend all three terms, or $6,800 for two terms, not including living expenses.

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