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Mt. Lebo to get 15 students with F-1 visas

Mt. Lebanon High School will welcome its largest-ever group of foreign students this fall, as at least 15 have been enrolled through the district's F-1 student visa sponsorship program.

With tuition costing $17,816 for a full year or $8,811 for a single semester, the visa students will bring a total of $231,220 to the district this school year, said spokeswoman Cissy Bowman.

“The income stream exceeded the projected amount” of $160,000 for the upcoming school year, said Assistant Superintendent Ron Davis. Bowman said more could yet apply between now and the fall, or before the spring semester if they're only attending a half-year.

The students come to the district through two companies — Sweden-based Educatius International and Oakland-based WholeRen — or as independent students. Most are coming from either China or Brazil, Davis said.

F-1 visa students are different from traditional “foreign exchange” students, who get a J-1 visa and do not pay tuition.

They often are students whose families want them to benefit from an American education or want to improve their chances of acceptance into an American college or university. They can either stay with relatives or host families, which companies like Educatius and WholeRen may help them find.

Brian White, president and co-founder of WholeRen, said attending American high schools helps foreign students prepare themselves for applying to American colleges, or gives them an advantage in Chinese universities and businesses. The host districts get the boost in revenue, additional students to fill out classes and added diversity in their schools.

“Most of them want to attend college in the U.S.; all of them want to learn English,” White said. “If a Chinese student wants to come here and go to school, he'll know what the expectations are when he wants to go to college.”

The F-1 visas allow students to either spend one year in American public schools, or multiple years in private or parochial schools, with the Department of Homeland Security listing Mt. Lebanon, Quaker Valley, West Allegheny and Beaver Valley as the Pittsburgh-area public school districts allowed to sponsor the visa students. Tuition rates are based on each district's cost per pupil.

District policy says that for any additional services, such as English-as-a-second-language instruction or special education classes, the district can charge extra tuition.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or [email protected].


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