With enrollment and revenues declining, public high schools are recruiting tuition-paying foreign students, reports AP. Most foreign students come from China, perfect their English and apply to U.S. universities.
In Millinocket, Maine, Superintendent Ken Smith is seeking 60 or more Chinese students — each paying $13,000 in tuition and another $11,000 for room and board — to fill empty classes at Stearns High School. Stearns once enrolled nearly 700 students; this year, there were less than 200.
Local students will benefit by being exposed to those from abroad, and Chinese students will gain from being immersed in the local culture, he said.
Students in Shanghai, Beijing and Fuzhou “didn’t know where Maine was, but they knew where Harvard was,” Smith said. “They all want to go to Harvard.”
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, Virginia and Washington schools are recruiting overseas, AP reports.
In remote Newcomb, N.Y., the high school this year took in nine international students — three from Russia, two from France, two from Vietnam, and one from Korea — who pay $3,500 each for tuition and another $3,500 to live with a host family. The school is bringing in foreign students not just for revenue, but also to keep its numbers up — it has only 34 students this year — and expose its students to other cultures, said Principal Skip Hults.
“We felt like our high school was becoming too small, both socially and academically,” Hults said.
Lei Huang, 16, from Shanghai, is attending Camden Hills high school in Rockport, Maine.
Schools in China, he said, demand long days in the classroom and long nights doing homework, with an emphasis on memorization and testing. In Camden, he appreciates the emphasis on creativity and tapping into students’ interests.
Outside of school, he likes being able to drink water out of the tap, the abundance of trees and time to participate on the high school ski team.
Foreign students can attend public schools for only one year because of visa regulations. Lei plans to attend a private school next year. He hopes to go on to MIT.