Maine schools say toxic political climate is driving away international students

Several Maine high schools say they’ve never had such a hard time finding students from abroad to help fill out their classrooms.

Administrators say news about violent political protests, international travel bans and federal immigration crackdowns — combined with increased competition for students and raising costs — is making it more difficult to find students in their go-to recruitment locales.

“We’re just not sifting through a pile of applications like we have in the past,” said Mel MacKay, head of school at John Bapst. “Normally we have a waiting list.”

Stearns High School in Millinocket typically takes in between 10 and 12 international students each year. When school started this month, it had just two.

The shortage emerged suddenly this year, according to Wade Merritt, president of the Maine International Trade Center. MITC runs StudyMaine, an advocacy organization that represents a consortium of Maine high schools and colleges with international programs. It’s become such an issue of concern, that the MITC has scheduled an Oct. 17 workshop to discuss the reasons behind the shortage and brainstorm solutions.

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