International Education Pick of the Week – 28 February 2014

pick-of-the-weekWe talk a lot about recruiting international students, and follow closely developments on the use of agents, technology and other fast-moving trends.  But this week we’ll discuss a trend in international education recruitment we’ve noticed over the past couple years, but have not yet really discussed or researched – the growing number of public school districts in the US that are recruiting international high school students. We think its worthy to be the international education pick of the week as the whole landscape of high school exchange is changing rapidly.

State Department Guidelines

Under the existing legal and regulatory framework, public school districts can issue I-20s for F1 visas for international students that want to attend high school in their district.  Districts must charge, and students must pay, the full, unsubsidized cost of attendance in their district.  For instance, if it costs $8,500 per year per student to educate a high school student in that district, the foreign student must pay the district $8,500 in “tuition,” in addition to any housing, insurance and other fees.  Students are limited to 12 months, a limitation that does not apply to private schools where students can stay for their entire high school career.  But districts are not limited in the number of international students that they can bring in for 12 months at a time.  Visit this section of the State Department site for full guidance on the program.

Turnaround in Newcomb, New York

This USA Today article explains how enrollment in one rural public school district in upstate New York had plummeted from 400 down to a low in 2007 of 55.  Then new superintendent Clark “Skip” Hults arrived in Newcomb:  “In 2007, however, the new superintendent realized that his greatest weakness — empty seats — might actually be his greatest asset. He’s now selling slots at his high school to foreign students willing to pay $10,000 for one year of an American education.”  Of the ten thousand total, half is tuition, so $5,000 per student goes directly to the school district, and half covers room, board, etc.  

The explosion of the use of F1 visas for high school students, and the corresponding move away from J1 high school exchange, has brought the number of high school students in the US on F1 students from 6,500 in 2007 to 65,000 in 2012.  But the scale of international students in US public schools is still not very great, as US State Department statistics show that only 3,000 of those 65,000 students attend public schools, with the rest at private schools.  Even in Newcomb, there are only 18 international students – but the internationalized campus has drawn additional students from the area, doubling total enrollment from the 2007 low of 55 to the current total of 109.

Canada Far Down the Path

In Canada, its a different story, as public school districts are far down the road of recruiting international students.  The Canadian Association of Public Schools – International (caps-i) boasts 95 public school district members that host international students.   Realizing a few years ago the revenue boost that international students can provide, cash-strapped public school systems in Canada started recruiting heavily.  For instance, The Vancouver School Board has a website helping to recruit potential international students, translated into 7 languages, and Canadian public school systems are very visible at international recruitment conferences like ICEF.  With over 20,000 international students at caps-i public schools, at roughly $10 – $13,000 per student, these public school districts have brought in hundreds of million dollars this way.

With successful examples like Newcomb (on a small scale) and Canada (on a much larger scale), and with no regulatory inhibition on the horizon that I could find, I think we can expect a surge in the number of school districts in the US that see international students as a financial salvation to their public school funding woes.

As always, comments are welcome on this post, and we’ll answer them as quickly as we can. And if you have any suggestions for the pick of the week, please email or tweet us at @EnvisageIntl.

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