Sustainability is a constant concern for educators, especially after the events of the past few years. Schools everywhere are focused on getting back to normal, especially in searching for ways to rebound from many losses caused by the pandemic or other setbacks, including decreases in learning, faculty losses, and enrollment drops. Perhaps it’s no surprise that many schools are also trying to begin or re-ignite their international student enrollment.
In 2018 alone, international students contributed $45 billion to the U.S. economy overall. Schools providing courses for international students find they not only improve their school’s bottom lines, but these programs also help them create better educational opportunities for both local and international students. Participating schools may see improvements in overall school diversity and equity, increased innovation from new voices, a more cooperative spirit among students, lasting friendships, and more.
Ready to begin? Here are a few things you should know about starting the process of enrolling international students.
As you know, for a school in the United States to become “accredited” they must go through a process. Being accredited means a school has completed certain steps necessary to attain recognition by an accrediting agency, proof that they are an institution maintaining certain academic standards.
But do you need to be an accredited school to enroll international students? The answer is no.
Accreditation may help some of your school’s goals, including with recruitment, but luckily, schools only need to be SEVP-certified to receive government approval to teach most international students traveling to the country on visas. And accreditation is not required for the SEVP-certification process.
So, what is SEVP-certification?
SEVP-certification, offered by various U.S. approved sources, lets schools create travel documents for international students, proving to customs officials that the student in question is/will be in the country for some form of study (academic or non-academic.)
U.S. regulations require that those on study visas must attend a school that is SEVP-certified. The U.S. uses the SEVP process to ensure that only legitimate and safe educational/training institutions are working with students. This process also allows DHS and other authorities to track students who are studying in the country.
The SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor program) manages both schools and non-immigrant students on visa issuance. SEVP works with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as well as the Department of State on many international student issues. Certification from SEVP is what gives institutions, who wish to enroll international students, the legal right to issue I-20 or DS-2019 documentation for student visas (F visas, M visas, and J visas.)
Meanwhile, SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) is technology used by Homeland Security to track, maintain info on the non-immigrant students and exchange visitors in the U.S. on visas. SEVP maintains the system for the DHS. Schools also use SEVIS to fill out required travel paperwork for international students.
For your international students studying in the U.S., there are three types of visas to consider:
Each visa has different regulations and length of time the holder is allowed to be in the U.S. Different visa types also may be more practical for different situations.
You can apply for SEVP certification using the SEVIS online system. There you will find form I-17, “Petition for Approval of School for Attendance by Nonimmigrant Student.” If your application is accepted, you’ll be able to issue I-20 forms for certain visas, including F and M.
FYI: Some types of learning institutions are not eligible for SEVP-certification including home schools, pre-schools, and others.
And it should be noted in certain situations, an international student may only be able to attend schools with full national or regional accreditation.
Again, your school will not need accreditation, in most cases, to enroll international students. However, if you ever want to explore full accreditation, check out the U.S. Department of Education website, which has a database of accrediting agencies. And of course, we at JAG Consulting Services, are here to help private schools like yours be more efficient with the process, services for many SEVP or accreditation issues
There’s much more to talk about when considering starting an international studies program, especially when it comes to development and strategy. But one topic some schools may overlook is the need to create strategies to alleviate the concerns of parents regarding sending their children to schools abroad right now. Obviously, the pandemic has made recruitment of all students more difficult. It caused enrollment rates of international students to drop, speeding up an already ongoing decline in enrollment for nonimmigrant students studying in the U.S.
But though the pandemic has been a big challenge for recruitment, there are two other issues schools should not forget when creating their strategies—school safety and cultural concerns for international students and their parents.
For some, safety issues amidst the cultural/political unrest in the U.S. may be partially the cause. So, when you create your recruitment strategy, think carefully about safety, about cultural concerns, as well as the need to assure parents and students about your institution’s safety.
JAG Consulting offers services specific to private schools like yours who are looking to recruit more international students.If you need help with your recruitment, SEVP-certification, or other issues like teacher training, curriculum development, or more, click here.