Mt. Olive School District is in the home stretch of establishing a program that would welcome approximately 30 high-achieving students from China for their senior year of high school. The move could net the district as much as $600,000 in revenue next year from tuition payments.
“The board of education and I are very excited about this program,” said Dr. Larrie Reynolds, superintendent of schools. “State aid has essentially been flat for years so the district is continually seeking other revenue sources. Not only will this program provide extra money, it would provide our kids with insight into another culture and allow the best and brightest Chinese students to spend a year studying in America. It’s really a win-win.”
A student’s tuition would be set at the district’s per pupil spending rate, which is now approximately $20,000 per year. No added teachers or any other significant expenses are anticipated, and Mt. Olive High School can easily accommodate the extra students.
The district has partnered with Edu-Link, a Paramus-based consulting firm that builds alliances between international schools and those in the U.S., to establish its transfer program. Edu-Link will serve as the liaison between Mt. Olive and the schools in China, as well as place students with carefully-screened host families for the duration of their stays.
In February, approximately 90 Chinese students are slated to visit Mt. Olive High School as part of their Edu-Link guided tour of U.S. schools.
Before moving forward with the plan, four board of education members and three administrators visited China in October to learn more about the Chinese education system and the needs and customs of its students. While in China, the school officials spent most of their time touring public and private schools in the cities of Changchun and Beijing, including several that had already established international educational partnerships.
“It was important for us to be sure that the students would be a good fit for us and us with them,” said Reynolds, who was part of the contingent. “What we found were hardworking students, many of whom are now in school for 10-14 hours per day, that are fascinated with America and the American way of life. They believe we have the best schools and universities in the world and they all would love to come here to learn. I was also impressed that all the students spoke English fairly well, and sincerely appreciate their teachers and the privilege of receiving an education.”
Edu-Link paid for the entire cost of one administrator’s trip. A grant from the Confucius Institute of Rutgers University paid for all lodging, food, ground transportation, and most of the airfare for the other two administrators and all four board of education members. The total expense to the district is estimated to be less than $5,000.
To accept foreign students, schools must be approved by the federal government and be certified as a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) institution. The district has already filed the necessary paperwork. An inspector recently visited Mt. Olive High School and submitted a recommendation; approval is expected by early spring.
The district will select the participants for the program based on applications, academic transcripts and interviews.