Niagara Gazette

Lewiston

April 13, 2013

In midst of budget crunch, Lew-Port looks to foreign exchange program for help

Niagara Gazette — With a grim budget situation continuing to develop in Lewiston-Porter, officials are turning to other means for income. One of those places might be the district's foreign exchange program, if high school Principal Paul Casseri has his way.

Last month, Casseri completed a much-needed step in brining foreign students through Lew-Port's doors by formally becoming SEVP – Student Exchange Visitor Program – certified through United States Homeland Security.

Casseri said the certification allows him to jump through red tape getting students from their home countries to Lewiston.

"When students come to the U.S. for private schools, they usually come under an F visa," he said. "With this certification, I can now issue an I-20 form, which is the nonimmigrant student status form, so they can go to their visa office and apply for an F visa to come to the U.S."

The F visa, though, requires students to be tuition-paying, which Lew-Port has set a figure at. In the current school year, foreign students paid almost $8,700 to attend Lew-Port. Next year, with active recruitment in countries like China ongoing, the district is hoping to find five or six students in an effort to support the district's struggling general fund.

Getting started bringing more and more students to the school, Casseri's primary focus is in China. The Chinese market for students, he said, is ripe with families which have the liquid cash to send their children to the U.S. for education. And Casseri, who has spent many months in the communist country since taking over the district's high school, has all of the connections to make it possible.

In fact, he may end up traveling there before the end of the school year, he said, to recruit with some local ambassadors already overseas. It's one way to put some life into a district which is bleeding out financially and is suffering from chronic decreases in enrollment, he said.

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