1.1 Briefly describe the program-level planning unit. What is the unit's purpose and function?
The International Student Program serves students from around the world. Our program places students first; uniquely provides support from the point of admission to graduation. Our purpose is to guide and support international students while studying in the United States on an F-1 visa. Our unit provides student services that include international admissions, orientation, peer mentoring, F-1 visa status advising, workshops and retention activities that support international student success. Our unit collaborates with federal agencies such as, Department of Homeland Security, United States immigration and Customs, Department of State, United States Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Labor, Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Security Administration and other local and state agencies to ensure compliance of the F-1 visa. The ARC International Student Program staff effectively advise international students with the F-1 student visa regulations to maintain status in the United States and provides personalized support services. Our program provides excellent student service, creates a welcoming environment, and provides international students with leadership and campus involvement opportunities to complement our student's academic goals.
The International Student Program contributes to the diversity of the American River College student population. International students exchange diverse perspectives with the community through their involvement in organizations, classroom participation and engagement with departments on campus. The presence of international students allows for the exchange of different ideas and global perspectives. We value our student’s diverse contributions to our campus community and strive to ensure a wonderful collegiate experience for each of our students. Moreover, by admitting international students, American River College participates in the global economy and cultivates new leaders for the world. Our unit contributes to the mission by placing students first and creating a program where they feel supported and can be successful.
Assessment and Analysis
The program review process asks units to reflect on the progress they've made towards achieving the goals they identified in each of the Annual Unit Plans they submitted since their last Program Review.
Follow this link to access your previous EMP submissions. For assistance accessing the EMP system, please contact Mary Goodall at GoodalM@arc.losrios.edu or (916) 484-4535.
2.1 Consider the progress that has been made towards the unit's objectives over the last six years. Based on how the unit intended to measure progress towards achieving these objectives, did the unit's prior planned
action steps (last six years of annual unit plans) result in the intended effect or the goal(s) being achieved?
The International Student Program has participated in the Educational Master Plan unit objectives for the past 6 years. These objectives have changed and evolved to address specific issues towards the international student population. With our designed action plan, progress has been made in achieving our objectives. Some highlights of our program’s progress includes: creating an engaging and effective in-person orientation every semester, providing a range of workshops addressing international students’ needs, providing peer support through our Peer Mentor Project and providing effective F-1 advising from Designated School Officials.
Although there has been significant improvements, there are areas where there can be room for improvement. International student recruitment is an area of intended growth but very little resources are allocated for this function. For example, international travel is needed to perform this function but there is no budget for recruitment. In addition, the International Student Program has not been allotted new staff to support incoming and current international students. Furthermore, English proficiency is fundamental for international student success. Our program would like to provide English tutoring services catered to international students to support their transition to U.S. education.
The following data sets may be useful in promoting and informing departmental dialogue, planning, decision making, and resource allocation.
Email Standard Data Set link
In addition to reflecting on the metrics shown above, it may prove useful to analyze other program-level data to assess the effectiveness of your unit.
For instructional units, ARC’s Data on demand system can be used to provide program and course
level information regarding equitable outcomes, such as program access or enrollment, successful course completion, and degree or certificate achievement
(up to 30+ demographic or course filters are available).
You might also consider pursuing other lines of inquiry appropriate to your unit type (instructional, student support, institutional/administrative support).
Refer to the Program Review Inquiry Guide for specific lines of inquiry.
2.2 What were the findings? Please identify program strengths, opportunities, challenges, equity gaps, influencing
factors (e.g., program environment), data limitations, areas for further research, and/or other items of interest.
After a review of college and national data, the program has identified several strengths, opportunities and changes. An identified strength is the overall support the student receives from time of admission to graduation and/or transfer. A student must apply and be admitted by ISP staff. When the student arrives to ARC, they must complete a one-on-one appointment with an international advisor. Once the student completes this onboarding step, they attend an in-person comprehensive orientation where students are prepared for F-1 rules and regulations, class expectations, program expectations and college life. The student remains connected to the program through transfer and/or graduation. This consistency and familiarity with the office creates a space where students feel supported with a team that is invested in their individual success.
As of the Fall 2017 semester, the International Student Program has integrated the Peer Mentor Project. This program has been successful in building community and using fellow international students as resources. The program staff train the Peer Mentors to create and facilitate at least four workshops a semester. In Fall 2017, they facilitated 7 events and in Spring 2018 they facilitated 9 events. These events vary from academic, social justice, mental health, and social topics and aide in the academic, social and holistic experience of international students at ARC. Peer Mentors complete an evaluation and collect student surveys for every event. This data is used to identify strengths and opportunities of each event to better serve our international student population. The Peer Mentors create and send weekly ISP newsletters that highlight important information such as, campus life events, campus resources, and deadlines. Peer Mentors meet with their 25-30 student caseload at least once per semester to identify any potential needs for a student. Our Peer Mentors are instrumental in helping students with class registration, assimilating to U.S classroom culture, guiding them to useful on-campus resources, and navigate through their community college experience. The Peer Mentor Project has enhanced and connected our students to the campus and to our services. Furthermore, Peer Mentors are introduced to leadership styles, social justice principles and communication styles. The Peer Mentors have attended conferences, became Student Senate members and have been offered other jobs on campus. The International Student Program would like to continue with our Peer Mentor Project to support new and continuing students.
Another identified strength of the program is effective communication. The student is guided from the initial stages of applying to ARC until the exit of the program and we regularly communicate with students about important updates, documents and/or college information. The Peer Mentor Project has increased the modes of communication through one-on-one meetings, workshops and a weekly newsletter that provides important program information. Students can easily schedule an appointment with a Designated School Official to clarify any issues with Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Security Administration, United States Customs and Immigration Services, and other collaborating agencies. Program staff regularly provide workshops about immigration status, employment and significant F-1 visa changes.
Lastly, a review of the data of the past 3 semesters has revealed high course enrollment success rates. For Fall 2017, course enrollment success rates were 85% and increased to 90.1% in Spring 2018. International retention services and proactive measures have contributed to the high success rates. International students are successful academically.
We identified 3 areas where the program has room for opportunities including: counseling services (academic and personal), tailored tutoring and new student recruitment. Academic counseling services for international students is critical in meeting visa mandates and completing their educational goal in a timely manner. USCIS closely monitors program completion; it is critical for international students to receive accurate information to adhere to federal regulations. Per federal regulations, F-1 students are not allowed to enter the country 30 days before the program start date (start of the semester) and are required to be registered for 12 units to comply with visa regulations. The start of the semester is impacted by domestic students utilizing counseling services and it becomes challenging for incoming F-1 students to meet with a counselor to enroll for classes. A designated counselor assists students abroad with short general questions on class placement, majors and transfer choices.
American River College was approved by USCIS to implement the Pathway Program. The Pathway Program allows students who assess in ESL only classes will be placed in the Pathway Program for 12 months and then transition to their major program for 36 months. A counselor is needed to effectively provide student educational plans to accurately transition international students to their academic program of choice. F-1 students are required to adhere to strict employment regulations. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is available under specific regulations. Students must be enrolled in a credit bearing course and abide by regulations set by USCIS. Counselor expertise, in collaboration with the international office, is needed to approve both the course relevance, employment and immigration regulations. Furthermore, students from abroad experience the college life transition differently. A review of the literature reveals the need for mental health services for students, including how to deal with adjusting to the college lifestyle in the United States. Moreover, international students who are less socially engaged with the institution and their peers are at risk for anxiety and depression (Sümer, S., Poyrazli, S., & Grahame, K., 2008). Our budget does not have enough funds for counseling services and creates a challenge in providing academic and personal support. Providing counseling services, both academic and personal would greatly impact the students’ overall wellness.
English proficiency is foundational in student success. Tailored tutoring services are beneficial to students in the program. “To support international students’ academic success, it is necessary to offer support services specifically designed for international students at the institutional level. These services should include English-language courses, tutoring, and supplemental courses that will help to improve their language and academic skills” (Andrade, 2006). Integrated tutoring services in the program would support students in transitioning to the academic culture and expectations of the U.S. education system. Tutoring services would support students build the foundation to be successful in their classes. However, having funds to allot a budget for tutoring services has been a challenge. Although, International students are successful in their classes; students would feel welcomed and supported by a person who has an understanding of the population, thus, making the student more confident in their abilities.
Recruitment of international students is an additional opportunity for the college. The college does not actively recruit international students to apply. There is potential to increase in enrollment if we invested in recruitment efforts. Budget restraints pose a challenge and we are unable to integrate services that require additional staffing like recruitment. American River College does not actively recruit international students, therefore the college relies on student initiated contact by email, phone, or walk-ins from family and friends. International students enrich the campus community; investing in the recruitment of international students would enhance the campus diversity
Lastly, our unit can provide information about international students to campus faculty and staff to cultivate a better understanding of the population. For example, providing training to departments that regularly interact with F-1 students would create campus wide international student support. Furthermore, building relationships with faculty to support our program would also enhance the international student experience.
With these opportunities, there are also challenges. The first challenge is national enrollment trends for international students; enrollment has declined the last two years. International students must receive admission and an F-1 visa by the United States Department of State to attend American River College. Although, our unit has taken significant strides in clarifying the pathway of admission for students, the Department of State ultimately makes the decision of visa issuance. Decline in international student enrollment is not unique to American River College. National trends suggest that enrollment is declining in the United States.
Another challenge is the lack of permanent staffing. The area of international students is complex, regulated by the federal government and impacted by constant change. Staff members are responsible for accurately advising students on immigration regulations to avoid any visa error; a visa error on student records could lead to adverse consequences such as deportation. This position requires extensive training, research, and analytical skills. Fully trained full-time staff creates congruency and consistency for incoming and current international students. It is critical that accurate and up-to-date information is conveyed to avoid any mistakes that impact students.
The International Student Program is housed under Equity Programs and Pathways. Our program uses an equity lens when working with international students. Our program serves students from around the world with different identities. Our office is trained in social justice frameworks that inform our programs. We often invite different communities to train our office staff including; LGBTIQ+, UndocuScholar Training, Social Justice Training and other leadership development. An area the office would like to expand is providing information on international students to the campus as a whole. Although, our program operates from an equity lens, there are still misconceptions about international students. Understanding the experience of international students would contribute to a warm and welcoming environment for students with different experiences. The program continues to learn about equity and social justice and implements these frameworks and how to bring international students in a larger conversation.
Our unit is influenced and regulated by the federal government agencies. We must adhere to strict visa regulations. Changes in national administration and national politics greatly impact visa issuance and immigration policy. In the past year, policy changes have complicated the process in which people in the United States can change their visa status. Visa issuance also is becoming more strenuous for specific countries. Moreover, world perception of the United States also influences college choice for students overseas. Unfortunately, external factors impact our department greatly.
Unfortunately, we have data limitations and gaps for our unit. Although, we have completed annual unit plans each year, changes in staff have made collecting student data inconsistent. Data was lost during transition. In addition, international student data is collected with non-resident students and it is not clear how data is collected for F-1 visa holders. Our unit does have access to immigration records for students but this information must be captured at real time every semester. We have successfully been able to gather data for the past two years through excel spreadsheets. These spreadsheets have been updated and improved each semester. The office will explore methods to gather accurate data.
Areas of Further Research
Although, the program review has revealed strengths, challenges and opportunities it has also exposed areas for further research including: data collection, mental health services, cultural competence and recruitment methods. With additional resources allocated these areas may be feasible to explore.
Reflection and Dialog
3.1 Discuss how the findings relate to the unit's effectiveness. What did your unit learn from the analysis and how
might the relevant findings inform future action?
Our unit discovered program strengths through the program review process. The International Student Program has a holistic approach to serving students; our students are connected and engaged with our program throughout their entire time at American River College. Students are connected immediately to our office since time of admission and are supported until they complete their degree and/or transfer. Students complete a comprehensive in-person orientation, regularly receive a newsletter, connect with their peer mentor and make appointments with the DSO. The program has a holistic approach and result in high success rates.
On the other hand, our unit discovered areas with opportunities for growth and gaps. Some gaps include counseling services and academic support. Collaboration with other departments would enhance student support academically. Although the program engages with students regularly, the program could provide more information about international students to the campus community. Our program has focused on serving students; campus wide understanding of the international student and its complexity would potentially create a welcoming and supportive environment in all areas of the college. These findings could inform the way our program collaborates and partners with others on campus. Lastly, the program would like to collect data specific to international students. The data will help our unit to provide accurate resources to our students and it will guarantee that our unit is in compliance with USCIS.
3.2 What is the unit's ideal future and why is it desirable to ARC? How will the unit's aspirations support accomplishment of the mission, improve institutional effectiveness, and/or increase academic quality?
In the future, the unit would like to offer the same level of services with some enhancements. As described in the previous years annual unit plans, the unit would benefit from an additional full-time classified staff member. Currently, there is one full-time staff member and two temporary classified employees. Consistency and accuracy is essential to this area; international services is complex and errors could have detrimental impacts to students. A full-time staff member would allow for more workshops, outreach to students and retention services. In addition, the office would like to collaborate with counseling services to support students in their academic plan, meet F-1 requirements and comply with our certification requirements. We also would like to integrate tutoring services to assist students academically. Lastly, the program would like the ability to gather data in an accurate and consistent manner to assess program needs.
It is the mission to provide quality, academically rich, inclusive environment for students. International students provide diverse experiences with an array of identities; this contributes to the vibrancy of the college. Having a holistic program that addresses the unique challenges of international students increases the academic quality of the program. Furthermore, collecting accurate data would improve institutional effectiveness by highlighting any gaps in the program to address in the future. Consistent and accurate data would allow for data informed decision making.
4.1 Identify/define one or more program-level objectives which enhance the unit's effectiveness. What does your unit intend to do to work towards its ideal future? How will success be measured?
Objective: The International Student Program will provide the campus with information regarding international students.
Action: The international Student Program will outreach to other departments for collaboration. The office will provide opportunities to learn about international students through college hours, group and one-on-one training. In addition, the office will explore the possibilities of partnering and building more relationships with campus departments. This will be measured by how many contacts we have throughout the year with other departments.
Objective: Provide international students with counseling services.
Action: The unit will explore the opportunity of receiving a counselor liaison for the department. In addition, the International Student Program will reach out to the counseling department for training opportunities of all counselors. International students must adhere to strict F-1 federal regulations; basic knowledge of these regulations would positively and greatly impact degree completion. This objective aligns with providing students a clear and effective pathways.
Objective: Provide international students personalized tutoring services.
Action: English Proficiency is important for international student success. Providing tutoring services tailored for international students could improve academic performance, assist with student persistence, and ensure that students complete all courses. Providing these services would provide comprehensive support for international students in achieving their educational goals. The International Student Program will request funding to hire an English tutor for 6 to 10 hours a week. Tutors will be supervised by the International Student Program and receive specialized training in working with international students.
Objective: The International Student Program would benefit from an additional staff member.
Action: The International Student Program will continue to ask for a second full time staff to work with the students, peer mentors, and to collaborate with the Student Support Specialist. Two full time staff members managing the admission process, retention services, and student employee trainings will provide efficient support services to international students. Also, both full time staff employees will collaborate closely to ensure that all new and incoming students receive quality student support and services.
Objective: Gather accurate data on international students.
Action: The International Student Program will search for different opportunities to gather data. The unit will connect with different departments including Research and Admissions and Records to examine possible means of collecting and storing data in a consistent manner. The unit will also create internal methods to collect data more consistently.
Objective: Recruit new international applicants from around the world.
Action: This would need district investment and prioritization. A designated person to travel and recruit students would be ideal. The International Student Program will explore different avenues of advertisement, marketing and recruitment to attract potential international students.
4.2 How will the unit's intended enhancements support ARC's commitment to social justice and equity?
Our program’s enhancements will support ARC’s commitment to social justice and equity by providing equitable services to a very unique and diverse group of students. International students come from diverse backgrounds, and they face language and cultural barriers while trying to adapt to the American educational system. Our program staff does its best to listen, guide, advise and mentor students since time of admissions to completion of study at American River College. Our program staff continually participates in training of social justice and infuses these principles into the curriculum of the Peer Mentors and interacting with all students. Our Peer Mentors are trained in areas of social justice and global understanding to serve our diverse group of students. Our unit is committed to creating a positive welcoming environment and creating bridges that international students can cross to achieve their educational goals.