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What you need to know for 01/19/2018

Decide on importing students, already

Decide on importing students, already

Idea has been kicking around awhile

Last spring, the Niskayuna school board talked about soliciting tuition-paying foreign students as a way to raise money and add diversity to its homogenous student body — two valid objectives. Unfortunately, the idea didn’t get very far. Now the board has expanded the idea to include students from around the region, too. Well, all right then. Why not?

There’s nothing wrong with Niskayuna or any other school district taking in a few or even a handful of students as a way to augment revenues and increase diversity. But there are some concerns, and the board needs to explore them fully before opening the floodgates.

The district can’t very well ask its taxpayers to subsidize the education of outsiders in any way, so it has to make sure the tuition it would be allowed to charge would be enough to cover its expenses. (It can only charge what the state Education Department allows under a formula that varies from district to district.)

The district also has to be sure that letting in outside students would, in no appreciable way, hurt its own students. The locals can’t be shut out of any special programs or electives at the expense of imported students.

There are probably some situations (such as a class operating well under capacity) where the district wouldn’t be increasing its costs, or compromising any of its own students’ experience by increasing the class’ size slightly. As a story in last Sunday’s Gazette indicated, a number of school districts in the region have, at various times, taken on outside students under such circumstances, making anywhere from $7,280 to $13,742 per student, depending on the student’s age and what State Ed. has allowed the district to charge. (The host district gets no share of state aid from the outside student’s district, thus the tuition is necessary to defray its costs.)

And there are certainly going to be costs, even if none are a direct result of increasing a particular class’ size by just one student. Thus the district shouldn’t expect to make much money doing it.

It makes more sense from the standpoint of exposing the student body to kids from different backgrounds than their own, similar ones; perhaps even a different country and culture.

But the school board has bandied this issue about long enough. Do the study needed to determine whether it can be at least budget-neutral, then decide whether to go forward.

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