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International High School Students on American Campuses

Students walk on campus at the University of Southern Maine
Students walk on campus at the University of Southern Maine
International High School Students on American Campus
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Universities and colleges in the United States are trying new programs for international students to increase enrollment and income.

Some universities are experimenting with bringing international high school students to their campuses. These programs permit students to complete their high school diploma while earning college credit at the same time.

University campus, high school and college credit

One example of this model is at the University of Southern Maine, or USM. The program is called the “International Academy”. The school is expecting its first class of international high school students this fall.

Joanna Evans is the director for the academy. The program is officially a “boarding school on a university campus” that serves 11th and 12th grade international high school students only.

The students will take classes at the University of Southern Maine to complete their high school diploma. However, because the classes are university-level, the students will receive college credit at the same time.

According to Evans, the students they recruit will have to be very strong. Their course schedule will be the same as taking only advanced-placement courses. The goal is that, by the time they complete their high school diploma at the academy, they will be ready to start college as a third-year college student.

Students at the University of Southern Maine
Students at the University of Southern Maine

Their English language skills also must be strong. The Academy looks for students with a minimum Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL score of 79, or a 6.5 on the International English Testing System, or IELTS. However, there are classes available to provide additional English language training when the students arrive if they need it.

All incoming students at the academy are required to take a college writing class their first semester. If English is not their first language, they will take a class taught by instructors with a background in teaching students who speak English as a foreign language.

Although they are only high school students, the expectations are the same as for college students. Evans says that faculty are not asked to change how they teach.

“Students need to be ready to take university classes, and that is the deal” Evans said.

Reaching enrollment goals

When the University of Southern Maine first decided to create the academy, the goal was to increase the enrollment at the university. Enrollment was down at USM. Evans noted that “any institution that offers a broad range of programming has to maintain enrollment to maintain programming.”

The university also wanted to increase school revenue. For state institutions in the U.S., in-state students pay much less than out-of-state or international students.

Schools across the U.S. have found that increasing their number of international students brings in more money. International students simply pay more to enroll.

However, there are many academic benefits for students as well, Evans says.

“What’s really important, in terms of offering a high-quality education, is helping students have the opportunity to work with people who come from different backgrounds,” Evans said. “Learning to work effectively with people who are different from themselves is a world skill, a life skill, and a 21st century skill.”

By increasing the diversity in lower-level university classes, Evans explains, the American students get experience with international students, and vice-versa.

University of Southern Maine
University of Southern Maine

There are other schools in the U.S. with programs similar to the one at USM. Many community colleges in the state of Washington are now marketing their high school completion programs to international students.

As with USM, these programs allow students to take courses at community college campuses to complete their high school degree and earn college credit at the same time.

These high school completion programs have existed for American students for many years. However, community colleges have increased their marketing to international students only in recent years.

International academies in the U.S.

Another new trend is the presence of international academies. These schools are now setting up campuses in the U.S., but not necessarily for American students.

One such school is the Keio Academy in Purchase, New York. It was created in 1990 by the Keio Gijuku (Keio Private School System) of Japan. Keio Gijuku also operates Keio University, Japan’s first private institution, as well as one of its most respected.

Keio Academy is chartered by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology. But it is also accredited by the New York State Association of Independent Schools in the United States.

Eileen Gallagher is an English teacher at Keio Academy. She said the school was primarily created to meet the needs of Japanese students living overseas. This means it is still considered to be part of the Japanese school system although it is in the U.S. Americans are allowed to attend, but they would need a qualifying level of Japanese language first.

International applications down

However, the debate over immigration in the United States can have an effect on foreign students wanting to visit the country.

International student applications are down by 40 percent across USM, Evans said. “All that adds up to a very challenging year for enrolling students…It’s affected enrollment in institutions across the country.”

I’m Jill Robbins. And I'm Phil Dierking

Phil Dierking wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

Do universities in your country have programs like these? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

advanced-placement - n. the placement of a student in a high school course that offers college credit if successfully completed.​

boarding school - n. a school where students reside during the semester.​

chartered - adj. allowed to work in a certain job because you have passed a test or qualified in some other way​

diploma - n. a document which shows that a person has finished a course of study or has graduated from a school​

enrollment - n. to be entered as a member of or participant in something

maintain - v. to cause something to exist or continue without changing​

revenue - n. money that is made by or paid to a business or an organization​

trend - n. a way of behaving, proceeding, etc., that is developing and becoming more common​

vice-versa - adv. with the main items in the preceding statement the other way around.​