Lancer Letter – Foreign Students

Submitted by Richard Scaletta, GM School District

I enjoy hearing from our alumni and knowing the paths taken after leaving our high school. I’m always intrigued to learn of those who have spent time living in another country or who have engaged in foreign travel, frequently as a result of their profession. I’ve also learned that for some of our students, it is the college experience when they first encounter students of a different culture in a significant way.

While diversity among our students has increased by 6% over recent years, we still remain pretty homogenous. Given the global economy and increasingly “smaller world” we live in, I’m pleased to announce that General McLane is now able to offer credentials to foreign students to obtain VISAs to study with us. While we have always had a number of foreign exchange students at our high school, we will now be actively recruiting more to attend.

This effort to give our students greater exposure to the global arena in which they will work and compete, has been a seven year journey with many turns and dead ends. It became apparent that the best first step in this venture would be to work with Homeland Security on what is known as the Student Exchange Visitor Information System to become an approved provider of the necessary form for a high school student in another country to obtain a VISA to come study with us. Students coming to us through this process will be required to pay tuition of $12,000. Private schools have been doing this for years. For example, Mercyhurst Prep takes on about 200 foreign students per year. This is a significant financial support for these schools. We do not plan to take on such a large number, more like 1/10th of what they are taking!

We will be working with at least three organizations that recruit students from foreign countries. These organizations have people in the countries and after coming to GM to see what we offer, they pitch GM to the prospective students. If the student indicates interest in studying at GM, we review their application and, if acceptable, offer them the opportunity to come here by issuing what is known as an I-20 form. They then go to their country’s consulate to obtain a VISA (which is not always automatic).

Having foreign students, especially from Asia, come to be educated in the United States is a big business. They want what we’ve got. The lies about American education being perpetrated by politicians wanting to divert money from public education to private and charter schools are just that. American education is still seen as the gold standard in the world.

Some of the students coming to study with us will be staying with host families. Since these students will be paying tuition, these host families do not have to be in our district but ideally, they do live here. Host families receive a monthly stipend from the agency to help cover room and board for the foreign students. We do not yet have details on the host family requirements but if you are interested in hosting a student for one year, please contact my office and we will have an agency contact you.

Some of our students may be staying in the dormitory at Family First which is the home base of the Pennsylvania International Academy. They have been hosting and recruiting students for the private schools for a number of years. While this is an expeditious way to operate, these students do miss some of the culture of living with an American family so we are hoping to have many interested host families in our community.

While I see this program offering many benefits and opportunities to our students, I’m not shy about admitting that this effort will help us with finances. Frankly, I feel that the federal and state governments have abandoned public education to funnel more money to private and charter schools. Our long term financial prognosis is not good. We either find alternate sources of revenue or local taxes will skyrocket to maintain our quality.

There are some challenges to recruiting students to come here. Like many other things, our government gives advantages to private schools in this area. Foreign students may stay at a private school for multiple years, but only one school year in a public school. (Since the first year is when the acclimation to American culture and language takes place, additional years are very beneficial.) Public Schools must charge the full cost of education so private school tuitions can undercut us. Among Asian students, there is a type of “brand name” draw to private schools as they believe their education is superior. And, apart from the private school issues, I’m told by recruiters that the Trump administration’s position and rhetoric on immigration has decreased the number of students looking to come here. There will be some challenges to this endeavor.

I’m hoping this program leads to many positive outcomes: a better understanding of people from other cultures; opportunities for our Mandarin students to converse with native speakers; opportunities for our students and teachers to study abroad; and, a first hand look for our students at the work ethic and respect for education held by other cultures.

The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion, and not necessarily those of or our sponsors.

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