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School gets student visas OK

Friday, April 05, 2013 - Updated: 11:06 AM

By CRISTINE MEIXNER

Editor

INDIAN LAKE - Indian Lake Central School District has cleared another hurdle in its quest to admit foreign students.

According to Superintendent Mark Brand, “We received approval on Monday [March 25] to issue F-1 visas for international students.”

Brand meant ILCSD is now a Student Exchange Visitor Program-approved school, not that it will actually be issuing visas.

A would-be foreign student can apply at a United States embassy or consulate for a F-1 student visa only if s/he first applies to and is accepted by a SEVP school. The school provides a special form for the student to present to the consular officer at his or her visa interview.

The nonimmigrant F-1 student visa program allows public schools to accept foreign students. Some rural high schools are using the program to boost student enrollment.

The Board of Education has approved charging each foreign student $9,000 a year, with $4,500 going to the school and $4,500 to the host family for room and board. It held a meeting in May 2012 on hosting foreign students.

SUCCESS IN NEWCOMB

ILCSD is patterning its program on that of Newcomb Central School District. Newcomb had almost 400 students in the 1980s, but enrollment had dropped to 55 in 2007.

Last May the school had 101 students, the highest enrollment since 1986: 88 local students, 13 international students, and six tuition students from southern New York state. International student tuition brought in almost $50,000 for the 2011/12 school year.

While international students are seen as beneficial in many ways, the F-1 visa program is flawed. It allows foreign students to attend American public schools, but only for one year. There is no such limit on foreign students who attend private or parochial schools in the United States.

New York state’s representatives in Congress are trying to fix that.

“If the current F-1 law is corrected and we are allowed to host international students for more than one year, there is no limit on how underutilized school districts like Newcomb can be transformed from near closing to growth,” Newcomb Central School District Superintendent Skip Hults said.

“In the last few years, 16 different school districts have reached out to us to begin similar programs.”

BILLS ARE BLOCKED

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced a bill in 2011 to allow tuition-paying foreign students to attend public schools in the U.S. for more than one year, the Strengthening America's Public Schools Through Promoting Foreign Investment Act (S. 823). The bill died in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

The chairman determines if a bill will move past the committee stage. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) chairs the committee.

In February 2012 Congressman Bill Owens (D-21st District) introduced the same bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1139), which died in the House Committee on the Judiciary. Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Texas) chaired the committee at the time. The current chairman is Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

Owens re-introduced the House legislation March 15.

“Recruiting foreign exchange students is one of many ways that innovative public schools are working to improve their bottom lines and continue providing a quality education to young students,” Owens said. “This legislation is a common-sense, no-cost fix to a flaw in the current visa system that will help give local schools an opportunity to generate additional revenue in times of falling enrollment.”

     

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