Ok, You’ve Enrolled International Students: Now What?

Vol. 1 No. 1

Many private-independent schools have recently started or expanded international student enrollment, with and without specific programming in place. Your school may be one of these schools with international students adding to the approximately 1.11 million international students already attending school in the United States. Secondary schools in particular have seen the largest increase in recent years, adding to the 5.5% increase since 2015.

In response to the increased interest, more schools have been certified in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) in the last seven years than the previous years combined. Yet, many schools are currently at risk of losing that same SEVP certification for noncompliance. Schools are expected, as a part of their SEVP certification, to periodically and systematically through SEVIS report on student and school status, share records and performance, and even further assist students in maintaining status of their F or M Visa. In addition, SEVP-certified schools must be ready for inspection visits. The SEVP certification process is extensive and involved, as any recent inductees will confirm. It is perhaps so intensive that schools are finding their way through the process but are completely overwhelmed in doing so, missing details and unable to retain important elements of the process.

We’re finding that although some of our client schools have strong enrollment in their international student programs, they are ill-prepared to manage this constituency. Is it possible international program decisions were made not strategically but rather in haste to supplement a fledgling enrollment of domestic students? Or, is it truely an issue of the certification process being overwhelming? As a program or Division Director, or even a faculty member managing course enrollment, many of you face these concerns after inheriting these programs.

As some of the international enrollment has been driven by the demand of the international marketplace as well as a desire on the part of schools to survive in the private-independent school marketplace, now schools must adjust and strategically plan for the international students’ arrival and assimilation into their community.

As we enter the summer months with a little extra time to reflect and prepare for the new school year, ask yourself these questions: How does your school prepare your faculty and school community for the assimilation and acculturation of these new international students? What resources are provided especially with regards to staffing PDSO/DSO responsibilities? What are the expectations of your Head of School and Board of Trustees? Not to mention buy-in from your entire school community for this program model. These are only a few of the issues and concerns being discussed by your colleagues as the landscape of private-independent school education is adjusting.

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