The University of Southern Maine is poised to open a new two-year international high school on campus after a vote Tuesday by a committee of University of Maine System trustees.

The Academic and Student Affairs Committee voted unanimously to authorize the school and sent the proposal on to the consent agenda of the next board of trustees meeting, effectively ensuring their approval at a Jan. 24-25 meeting.

“This is relatively unique,” USM President Glenn Cummings said. Most college programs nationwide for international students are for college credit, not high school, and this program would attract international students interested in eventually enrolling in U.S. colleges, he said.

“This is somewhat out of the box and that is actually helping us out there in our recruiting efforts,” Cummings told the committee members, who were meeting in Bangor.

A USM representative who was on an October 2015 governor’s trade mission to China and Japan said there was strong interest in the program and the $36,000-a-year price tag was competitive, and could likely be higher if needed.

Ideally, the school would initially enroll 50 students and house them in their own dorm at Anderson Hall on the Gorham campus. They would take existing entry-level courses alongside traditional USM students.


But Cummings noted Tuesday that the opening of what is being called “International Early College at USM” may be delayed to either January 2017 or the following fall, because USM has to work out visa approval issues with the federal government, and that process can take as long as 10 months. USM already has accreditation for a high school. The school, although it would be housed in a public university, would be considered a private high school and not required to follow state rules and regulations and funding issues associated with public K-12 schools, Cummings said.

Students must be proficient in English and meet academic standards to enter, and would graduate with a high school diploma and two years of transferable college credit.

The $36,000-a-year charge includes tuition and fees, room and board, and fees paid directly to a USM partner, the Council on International Education Exchange, or CIEE. It does not include the admission fee, course fees, or any fees associated with extracurricular activities.

Scholarships from USM would not be available, and the university expects to bring in $500,000 a year from the program.

USM would need to hire five new employees for the school: a program director and four house managers. There will also be additional training required for employees who come into contact with the students, who are younger than most students on campus. However, Cummings told the committee that USM has up to 2,000 high school students taking courses on campus every year, and that many incoming freshman are 17-year-olds, so USM already regularly has young people on campus.

The students would not be considered university students and would not be allowed to participate in NCAA intercollegiate athletics or any intermural contact sport and would not be permitted to drive while they are in the United States.


Portland-based CIEE, which already operates a high school placement program for international students, would help recruit students and provide support services, such as a one-week orientation program.

Cummings said CIEE officials thought some students from abroad who are already enrolled in Maine high schools may transfer to the USM program.

Many high schools in Maine already allow international students, including Thornton Academy in Saco, which has dedicated dorms and support services for a large international student population.


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