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Bill Would Allow Longer Foreign-Student Stays in Public Schools

Proposed legislation that would allow foreign exchange students to stay longer could be especially beneficial to small, under-enrolled schools.

The nonimmigrant F-1 visa program allows foreign exchange students to attend U.S. public secondary schools only for one year, but those same students can attend private or parochial schools with no restrictions. The proposal would change the law to allow foreign exchange students who pay tuition to stay more than one year, which would help school districts increase enrollment and stave off closure threats, according to lawmakers who introduced the Strengthening America's Public Schools Through Promoting Foreign Investment Act.

"This bill is a no-cost, direct investment in the nation's rural education system and will give local school officials a wider range of opportunities to keep their schools open and educate the next generation," said U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, of D-N.Y., one of the legislation's sponsors, in a press release. "Innovative school districts across the country are ensuring their longevity by increasing enrollment and revenue through recruiting foreign exchange students from around the world who pay for their education."

One of the school districts that's benefited from foreign students enrolling is Newcomb Central School District in Newcomb, N.Y.

The district began marketing itself overseas four years ago to attract more foreign students, and it's hosted 43 students from 21 countries in the last five years, according to a story in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, in Saranac Lake, N.Y. That's significant, considering the small, one-school rural district has only 80 students.

For the current school year, exchange students pay a tuition of $4,000.

"The program is ideal for underutilized school districts where we already have the books, desks, teacher, etc.—all we need is students," said Superintendent Clark "Skip" Hults, in the story. "This is not only helpful for financial reasons, but has brought wonderful diversity to our district."

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