The top five destinations for international high school students in order of preference are regarded as

  1. United States,
  2. United Kingdom,
  3. Canada,
  4. Australia,
  5. New Zealand.

[Source: i-graduate ICEF Agent Barometer 2011]

A Case for the Establishment of an Inter-state Agency for Internationalization in Public Schools (IAIPS)

Encouraging fee-paying overseas students to enroll in public high schools can provide the opportunity to sizably boost the local economy in accommodation, tourism and education.

The Issue

STRENGTHENING AMERICA’S PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOLS and their communities through overseas student enrollment is a future possibility with legislative change and the effective implementation of a recruitment and service program for teenage students from Asia, Europe and South America. This paper outlines the opportunity and begins a framework for the creation of a sustainable, competitive and attractive program within northeastern states.

Current immigration legislation in the United States restricts international students wishing to pay to attend public high schools to a combined maximum stay of one year. Elementary schools are not permitted to host any fee-paying international students. In contrast, a majority of ‘western’ public high schools and private schools (including within the US) are not subject to this limitation, thereby making them an attractive academic pathway for potential students.

The removal of this F-1 visa [1] one year limit through repealing Section 625 of Public Law 104-208 [2] and corresponding Section 214(m) [3]  of the Immigration and Nationality Act would make US public high schools a viable option for international students. It would consequently enable high schools the opportunity to establish a host program of study and care that would mitigate costs while providing a source of direct income to local school districts.

Specific attempts to change this law have occurred within Congress. The most progress to date occurred in July 2013 with the passing of Senate bill S.744 [4]  in the 113th Congress. No concurrent legislation proceeded through the House of Representatives. A change of Congress has since seen this bill lapse.

Discussion on the repeal of the existing legislation, which was originally introduced in 1996 [5], has increased over recent years within both the secondary school education community and existing J-1 visa [6]  exchange program agencies. Awareness and expectation that change will occur for F-1 visa conditions, albeit within an unknown time frame, has risen amongst interested parties.

It remains prudent for those individuals and organizations with an interest in change to make advance preparations if they desire a leadership role and/or competitive advantage.

Change can bring local economic opportunity

When law change occurs those individual states that succeed in recruiting greater numbers of students in comparison to others will likely do so based on current perceptions—with reputations built on quality of education, performance, personal safety, livability, prestige, activities and affordability. Pre-emptive enhancement of a regions’ reputation could be achieved with deliberate promotion and the quality delivery of its services.

A Course of Action

A foreign student wishing to study overseas is likely to begin their selection of a school by first choosing a destination country based on its perceived reputation and feedback from friends, family and neighbors. Consequently perceptions will be formed sufficient to see destination countries prioritized by their desirability and ease of access.

Should the United States be preferred then a decision funnel will operate whereby the region, then state followed by city will narrow to a selection of desirable schools.

A competition for students is in effect for all parties within each level of this decision funnel. Countries compete with countries, regions with regions, states with states, cities with cities and schools with schools.

In very general terms the United States can be broadly divided into regions of West Coast, East Coast, Mid West then north and south within each. California, New York and Florida typically reach top-of-mind for many non-Americans. (This may be attributed to the prominence that these locations have within mainstream media.)

In the event of a future law change those regions that succeed in recruiting greater numbers of students in comparison to others will likely do so based on current perceptions with reputations built on quality of education, performance, personal safety, livability, prestige, activities and affordability. Pre-emptive enhancement of a regions reputation could be achieved with deliberate promotion and the quality delivery of its services.

Initially public schools, communities and local departments are unlikely to have specific financial resources assigned for such recruitment or service delivery. By contrast, specific and significant government funding [7]  is made available within New Zealand, Australia and Canada for this purpose, leading to sustainably greater economic and cultural benefits. The United States can learn from these countries that have over twenty years of experience and accumulated resources in the provision of these public school programs.

Currently funded departmental goals could be supported using this program as a new mechanism and by diverting funds to it—provided that a State officially recognizes that the establishment of an international fee-paying student program in public high schools has benefits for local commerce, tourism and education [8]. Those departments charged with increasing purchases of local goods and services, stimulating business growth, promoting regional attractions and advancing education can find a common interest, motivation to act and willingness to combine resources.

Furthermore, collaboration between individual States to maximize their resources and minimize costs is likely to provide a greater chance for sustainable success. The establishment of an inter-state agency could occur between States deemed to have a similar ‘brand’ and a shared level of interest. “Sharing the load” between multiple departments and States has the potential to minimize the cost on individual entities and release the volume of funds necessary to succeed.

Already clusters of interested parties have been growing within those States located in the US northeast. School districts [9]  have become motivated to explore the inclusion of international students due to reductions in revenue sources dependent on diminished property taxes, the undesirability of increased class sizes, reductions in overall student numbers (particularly in rural schools [10]), the challenge of funding staff, facilities and curricula, and the recognition by some of a lagging in global experience and competitiveness.

The establishment of a recognized agency may further increase monetary and organizational support from other parties. State Department funding may be possible for specific activities. Collaboration with public and private higher education institutions who see the opportunity to increase their own (pre-qualified) student numbers and achievement levels is similarly recognized. Commercial providers of accommodation and tourism activities are also likely to develop a vested interest.

If the means and will to create an Inter-state Agency for Internationalization in Public Schools (IAIPS) emerges, what could it look like?


Dual tasks of (i) encouraging recruitment and (ii) reinforcing delivery standards could see such an agency function under a fluid promotion strategy and set performance criteria that would be applicable for benefitting the high school communities and international students who reside within its jurisdiction.

(i) Preliminary Promotion Strategy  Aim: to be a destination of choice.

  • Anticipate the actions of existing and future competitors/alternatives.
  • Identify channels of communication, their costs and likely effectiveness.
  • Seek, select and equip recruitment partners.
  • Develop a distinct, multifaceted message that clearly presents what northeastern high schools have to offer.
  • Communicate the opportunity to potential international students and their families - encouraging direct connection between parents of potential students and individual high schools.
  • Integrate monitoring and evaluation processes throughout.

(ii) Perpetual Standards of Care  Aim: to exceed expectations of service for all participants.

  • Define standards of care for academic support, extracurricular activities, safety and accommodation.
  • Establish guidelines for staff selection and develop professional development opportunities.
  • Ascertain legal obligations and provide support.
  • Monitor legislative activity and participate where appropriate.
  • Establish accounting and financial management protocols.
  • Determine and communicate insurance and medical requirements.
  • Enable ongoing, positive communication between all stakeholders.


An annual budget of $1.4m is proposed for the setup and initial operation of an inter-state agency.

Initial funding could be sourced through the combining of finances provided by participating States and their stake-holding departments. Sustainable and direct funding could be achieved in the future through setting a compulsory state levy on international students. For example, requiring $350 per student per year would see 4000 students generate $1.4m p.a.


Initial allowance for six (6) staff is recommended with a centrally located office.

Agency Directoroperational oversight, strategy development, foreign promotion & liaison; accountable to oversight committee.
International Student Program Director (standards & care)student program support, standard development and local compliance.
School Liaison Representativeinformation conveyance, procedural support, relationship building, quality assessment, program promotion.
Online Systems Technical Managerwebsite and intranet development, communication system implementation
Online Communications/Content Managernarrative development and dissemination, visual (still photography, videography, graphic design) and literary authoring.
Administration Manager reception, scheduling, records and accounts


Now is the time

Does creating IAIPS wait for legislative change or is it pre-emptive? The rewards for early adopters include market share, on-going leadership, foundational shaping and control. The risk of pre-emptive adoption is mitigated by cost sharing and through immediate returns from the likely increased recruitment to the current, limited F-1 program.

Establishment of an “Inter-state Agency for Internationalization in Public Schools” (IAIPS) in a coorperating cluster of states provides immediate return for recruitment of one-year program students and capacity for greater future return through preparedness for increased student numbers.


[1] An F-1 Visa for secondary school students is applicable for those wishing to attend a public high school through acceptance by a SEVIS approved school and by the paym ent of the full, unsubsidized amount of tuition.  It is not an exchange program. http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/study-exchange/student/foreign-students-in-public-schools.html

[2] Public Law 104-208, 104th Congress, TITLE VI--MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS, Subtitle B--Miscellaneous Amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 625. FOREIGN STUDENTS. (a)(1)(1)(B)  [[Page 110 STAT. 3009-700]]  http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-104publ208/html/PLAW-104publ208.htm

[3] INA 214(m)  https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/8/1184

[4] S.744 113th Congress. Sec. 4406  NONIMMIGRANT ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS. Pg. 990 Library of Congress Thomas http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c113:4:./temp/~c11385Zzj7:e1163876:

[5] Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) introduced legislation which in its final phases had Sec. 625 added,

[6] A J-1 Visa is for exchange students who are sponsored by a host school.  No payment is given to the host school or the host family.  Agencies do typically receive payments.  http://j1visa.state.gov

[7] Provision of central government funding for international student recruitment and development

    2011 Comparative table: http://www.international.gc.ca/education/report-rapport/strategy-strategie/annex-c-annexe.aspx?lang=eng

    Australia: AUD $12.75m spent in 2014-2015 on Future Unlimited campaign launch http://www.austrade.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/1401/Austrade-Annual-Report-2013-14.pdf.aspx Education promotion is one of the priority outcomes of the Australian Trade Commission.  Expenditure is contained within its total annual expenditure of AUD $214.8m in 2013-2014, pg. 161.

    New Zealand: NZD $32.5m for Education NZ, 2013/14 http://enz.govt.nz/sites/public_files/Annual%20Report%202013-2014.pdf pg. 24;

    Canada: CAD $1m. p.a between 2006 – 2011 http://www.international.gc.ca/education/report-rapport/strategy-strategie/annex-c-annexe.aspx?lang=eng  Increased funding to $5 million a year ongoing was reported in the Economic Action Plan 2013, New Support for Canada's International Education Strategy http://international.gc.ca/global-markets-marches-mondiaux/education/strategy-strategie.aspx?lang=eng

[8] Economic benefits to community

    United States: US $27 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013. (U.S. Department of Commerce), 2014 Open Doors Report slide presentation Slide 19, http://www.iie.org/~/media/Files/Corporate/Open-Doors/Open-Doors-2014-Presentation.ashx?la=en

    New Zealand: a NZD $2.75 billion 2014 total gross spending by international students in New Zealand is estimated. http://enz.govt.nz/sites/public_files/Final%20Snapshot%20Report%20full%20year%202014.pdf  pg.15

    Australia: $16.3 billion to the Australian economy in 2013–14, Australian Government, Export income to Australia from international education activity in 2013–14, 2014, and quoted in http://www.austrade.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/5758/Exec%20Summ%20-%20Minister%20Pyne%20-%20Draft%20National%20Strategy%20for%20International%20Ed.pdf.aspx

    Canada: CAD $8.0 billion, for 2010 was calculated in a Foreign Affairs and International Canada (DFAIT) report which translates to 86,570 jobs and $455 million in government tax revenue. http://www.international.gc.ca/education/report-rapport/strategy-strategie/index.aspx?view=d&lang=eng#why  In 2014 this was reported as being steady at CAD $8.4b.  http://international.gc.ca/global-markets-marches-mondiaux/education/strategy-strategie.aspx?lang=eng

[9] Bow High School, NH, http://bhs.bownet.org/home ,  Campbell High School, NH http://www.campbellhs.org

[10] Newcomb Central High, NY, http://www.newcombcsd.org

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