U.S. community colleges face challenges when launching campuses in Gulf region
A recent Wall Street Journal article indicates various community colleges and other American educational institutions are trying out the idea of satellite campuses in the Gulf region to enjoy new economic opportunities, broaden the minds of faculty and students and allow people to have international experiences.
Houston Community College (HCC) Vice Chancellor Edmund Herod said there are certain challenges to these kinds of ventures, but he is ultimately positive about the way these projects can work.
The college's effort, briefly cited in the Wall Street Journal story, was a five-year plan to launch a new campus called the Community College of Qatar (CCQ). Herod was installed as dean of the school but said the goal was never to have Americans running the college in the region for the long-term.
“I think it brought enormous dividends.” Herod told the Gulf News Journal on April 14, characterizing the college's campus in Qatar as “educational diplomacy.”
“There was a five-year contract.” Herod said. “It was very clear that the goal was to have the college as a turn-key operation. … There was never meant to be a permanent contract. This was a partnership with the Qatari government.”
To set the stage for how the program worked out, Herod cited the down economy of 2010. The new campus, he said, created new jobs and new opportunities.
“This allowed people who were unemployed to find employment with HCC in an educational environment.” Herod said. “We put people to work.”
Herod said many Americans in the program also enjoyed the new cultural experiences in the region and that the program gave locals a chance to participate in an American institution. However, he said, ultimately there were challenges related to maintaining the program for the long-term. One was that the college's board did not want employees establishing residency abroad.
Another school policy might have also become a problem if the contract had been extended. At some points, Herod said, the school’s chancellor limits international travel, according to U.S. State Department advisories, in order to protect the safety of employees and students.
So the HCC handed off the program to Qataris. The CCQ is still going strong, it’s just not run by HCC staff.
In addition, Herod said, the HCC is still pursuing international programs and opportunities.
“We still have a good working relationship with (CCQ) and we continue to try to work on things collaboratively.” Herod said.
“The college opened its doors to approximately 300 students and now has approximately 3,600.” Herod said. “It was a pathway to college for Qatari citizens, and we saw a similar profile to what you find in the U.S., with younger students in the day and working Qataris who were older in the evening. I am very proud of our work there and the pathways to better opportunities which were created.”