In U.S. High Schools, Full-Time International Students Now Outnumber Exchange Students

Public schools are actively recruiting tuition-paying foreign students

Photo: Phil Boorman/Corbis

Foreign exchange students have long been part of many American high schools, but they are now outnumbered by a different type of international student. Rather than joining an American high school for a year, these overseas students permanently transfer, receiving their entire high school education in the U.S. 

According to a new survey conducted by the Institute of International Education, around 73,000 international students enrolled at American high schools in 2013, and nearly 70 percent were pursuing their entire degree here. This means the number of permanently enrolled international students tripled since 2004, IIE points out. Most of the students who come for the entire high school experience are from Asia, and Chinese students make up half of that group. Temporary exchange students, on the other hand, predominantly come from Europe. 

Some public schools seem to be actively encouraging this trend. Historically, permanent international students were mostly a staple of private schools. As USA Today reported earlier this year: 

Federal statistics show that the number of international high schoolers arriving in the USA on F-1 visas has jumped from about 6,500 in 2007 to 65,000 in 2012. Of those, all but 3,000 attended private schools.

But that's slowly changing. Some public schools are charging tuition for foreign students, often ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per year, USA Today found. International students both generate income for the school and fill up empty classroom seats, in the case of towns whose populations are dwindling. By federal law, the students are still restricted to staying just one year at their respective school, but at the end of that year some wind up transferring to private schools to finish up their education in the U.S. 

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