ROANOKE – International students are going to school in Roanoke and living downtown in dorms. The new model is what Roanoke Catholic and North Cross are using to recruit more diverse students and boost enrollment.
"Students that maybe want to come in on a Sunday night, go to school all week, live in the dorm, go home on the weekends, that's a possibility for them. But my guess is once they get here they are going to want to stay all weekend and all year and be part of the community. We're really excited about that," said Patrick Patterson, Roanoke Catholic principal and head of school.
Patterson says with Amtrak coming next month, the idea is students from D.C., Maryland and northern Virginia will want to go to school in Roanoke along with international students.
It's a model that's already working for North Cross. Nearly twenty students from six countries moved in this fall to the Wilson International dorms on Jefferson Street.
"The schedule is packed. The students get up, they bus to school in the morning, they have breakfast at school. They have a full academic day, they have afternoon activities. A lot of them are involved in sports. They bus here in the evening," said Stephen Alexander, Wilson International executive director.
They have dinner back at the dorms, free time and a quiet two hour study hall before checking in for the night and going to bed.
Graduating from an American high school can help international students get into an American college and this new model is cheaper than boarding schools. It's about $40,000 for the Wilson International model. Alexander says that saves families more than $10,000 from traditional boarding schools and boosts the school's bottom line.
"I think one of the struggles we have at high schools is to figure out a way, especially as a Catholic institution to reach out beyond your own market share," said Patterson.
North Cross faculty live in the dorms for free or reduced prices to supervise students.
Wilson International wants to grow the company, expanding to more dorms across the south, looking at cities like Atlanta, New Orleans or Charlotte as possibilities.