DEXTER, Maine — The SAD 46 board of directors unanimously authorized the superintendent to issue I-20 forms from the state Department of Education to allow international students to attend Dexter Regional High School. The I-20 provides foreign students with a visa to attend a Maine high school for one year.
The district is following a trend of other Maine public high schools seeking to attract more international students.
The Millinocket School District expressed interest earlier in the year of having as many 200 Chinese students at Stearns High School. According to Jay Brennan of the consulting firm Global Study Connections, no Maine high school is likely to have that many international students in its school. Brennan believes that SAD 46 will most likely follow the example set by the Boothbay Region School District, which has seven foreign students attending high school in the district this year.
“You start out small, because you have to build a reputation,” Brennan said. “It takes time. In your first year, you may get one or none. But any school district that thinks it’s going to get 200 or even 100 — [it’s] just out of the question.”
SAD 46 will be partnering with Global Study Connections, which has relationships with 82 private and public high schools and colleges nationwide. Brennan was the headmaster at Foxcroft Academy when the private school decided to embark on building dormitories to attract more foreign students. His experience with attracting international students led him , following his retirement from Foxcroft Academy, into the consulting field for matching students and schools.
SAD 46 Superintendent Kevin Jordan said he is confident it will be a good relationship with Global Study Connections because of Brennan’s reputation in the field.
“We know Jay,and he is also local. Without him being involved in the process, I’m not sure we’d be pursuing international students at this time,” Jordan said.
SAD 46 and with other public school districts are restricted to having an international student for one year.
These public schools are issued an F-1 visa, which requires a secondary school attendance limited to 12 months. The F-1 student’s family or government is required to pay the school the full cost of education, and the student is prohibited from attending any elementary or adult educational programs.
Private institutions are not governed by the same provisions. An international student is allowed to attend a private school for all four years of high school.
If international students who attend a Maine public school want to continue their education in the United States, they must either transfer to a different public school or a private school.
Global Study Connections has employees around the world working with international families to find a suitable American school match for their students. Most Asian students end up finishing their high school education and go on to attend an American college. Global Study Connections student placement coordinator Hae Jin Lee of South Korea, who was educated in America, told the school board that Asian students have several motivations for attending school in the United States .
“They want to learn English, of course, but it also looks good on the resumes in an ever-growing and competitive globalized economy” Lee said. “Asian parents are also looking to expose them to different cultures and better prepare them for American college life by first exposing them to American high school life.”
Brennan indicated the greatest challenge facing SAD 46 would be finding a home-stay family for its future international students. The student’s family typically pays a stipend of $500-$600 per month.