Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

Ed.D. Educational Leadership


Educational Services and Leadership


College of Education


Walpole, MaryBeth

Committee Member 1

Coaxum, James

Committee Member 2

Linksz, James


community colleges, fiscal health, international students


Students, Foreign; Universities and colleges--Admission; Community colleges--United States


Community College Leadership


The purpose of this study was to understand the strategic role international students play in the overall fiscal health of select community colleges located in a Middle Atlantic state in the United States, as well as to explore the marketing and recruitment strategies used to interact with international students and their effectiveness. Community college professionals in senior management positions responsible for the institution’s strategic direction and fiscal health, as well as those working directly with international students or those engaged in strategic enrollment management, participated in this study.

Framed by the research setting, problem and purpose, the following questions guided this inquiry: How do the community colleges under study describe the role of their international student population?; How do the community colleges under study perceive the connection between international student recruitment and enrollment and their fiscal health; What marketing and recruitment strategies do administrators at the community colleges under study use to attract international students?; How do marketing and admissions professionals at the community colleges under study measure the effectiveness of their marketing and recruitment efforts?

This study used a qualitative multiple case study approach and was conducted at 11 community colleges which varied in geographic location and by the student populations they serve. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with 18 community college senior administrators, and analyzed to allow themes to emerge. Academic capitalism served as the guiding conceptual framework.

Key findings of the study indicate that international students were generally viewed as an attractive and important revenue stream and financial opportunity. For the majority of interviewees, however, the financial impact on the institution was minimal. Further, the cultural benefits international students added to the classroom and overall campus environment outweighed the economic benefits. Convenient housing options, a comprehensive English as a Second Language (ESL) program, and dedicated staffing were identified as the most important infrastructure components in international student enrollment. Traditional marketing and recruitment strategies, including local agents and recruitment fairs, produced mixed results and received mixed reviews. In addition, a lack of understanding of the community college system by international students and their families was a disadvantage in today’s competitive recruiting market, as well as a lack of cooperation and coordination between the community colleges under study prevented more consistent recruitment results and sustained a culture of haves and have nots. Finally, this study offers a leadership perspective on this topic by using senior college administrators’ own rich description within the academic capitalism framework.