During the 2010-11 school year we began working on new rules that might address the likelihood that (1) international students would begin to prefer the F-1 visa route to enrollment in our schools over the J-1 route, and (2) that our schools would with increasing efforts turn to foreign countries to recruit students to replace the declining population in Michigan and to replenish the funding that would allow those schools to operate at funding levels sufficient to maintain facilities, faculties and programs.
We got hung up and slowed down during these deliberations because of uncertainty about the future roles of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, the US Department of State and the US Department of Homeland Security, and hesitancy over the potential legal problems we might be creating by implementing practical solutions to real athletic-related problems that the influx of unvetted F-1 visa students had created and would continue to create with greater frequency as their numbers increased.
In 2012, there were more J-1 visa students enrolled through CSIET-approved programs in Michigan secondary schools than in any other state; and the total number of J-1 and F-1 students combined was also greatest in Michigan. And, having such a hospitable environment for J-1 students, we have predicted that a slowly growing percentage of the rapidly growing number of F-1 students in the US (80,000 in 2013) would begin enrolling in Michigan secondary schools.
The 2013-14 school year has brought things to a head, with certain high profile situations creating enough attention that hesitations were overcome and the adoption of new rules for 2014-15 became a foregone conclusion. You can find those changes here in Appendix B of the March Representative Council Minutes.
Very briefly, here are the key components of the new rules:
- Only those international students (J-1 or F-1) who qualify for one of the residency exceptions to the Transfer Regulation or are placed through an MHSAA Approved International Student Program can have varsity eligibility.
- J-1 and F-1 visa students have identical opportunities. If they are enrolled through an MHSAA Approved International Student Program, they are immediately eligible for one academic year, followed by one year of ineligibility before they could be eligible again. This is the “Play One, Wait One” rule that has previously applied only to J-1 foreign exchange students.
- Local schools may, if they wish, provide other international students subvarsity eligibility regardless of grade level, without MHSAA Executive Committee approval.