In the 1980s, foreign exchange programs proliferated nationwide and placements increased in Michigan schools. Occasionally there were allegations of sports-related placements in Michigan, and there were incidents in one or more sports in other states where teams dominated by international students dominated state tournament results.
When MHSAA rules were modified in the late 1980s , the objectives included weeding out poorly run foreign exchange programs and unscrupulous local representatives. This was accomplished by placing a heavy reliance on exchange programs that had earned listing by the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET).
Meanwhile, many schools formalized local policies. In many cases, they limited enrollment to a maximum number of foreign exchange students and required that the placements be through CSIET-listed organizations. During both 2009-10 and 2010-11, more students were placed in Michigan schools through CSIET-listed programs than in any other state.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 bombings, the United States government passed new laws and/or regulations. The US State Department has not allowed foreign exchange programs (J-1 visa program sponsors) to increase their programs but has frozen their J-1 visa allotments. As a result, this has led to a migration of exchange student placements from the J-1 to the F-1 visa program.
J-1 visa regulations for high school exchanges are limited to only one year, with no extensions. The J-1 visa high school regulations prohibit eligibility of students that have previously entered the US on an F-1 visa. However, the F-1 visa does not do the same. Therefore, some students can go from a J-1 visa to an F-1 visa in the subsequent year. The F-1 visa regulations permit multiple-year placements in private or independent school settings but not in public school settings.
All of this conspires to cause more international students who are seeking preparation for US colleges and universities to evade CSIET-listed programs and attend US secondary schools for a second, third or fourth year, which requires them to avoid public schools.
The challenge now before the MHSAA is to modify existing rules so that the opportunities for international students to participate in competitive sports at MHSAA member schools apply equally to public and nonpublic schools. In meeting this challenge, the MHSAA will also strive to uphold the work of CSIET which has helped protect students, schools and state high school associations for three decades and should continue to perform this function in the future if it is possible for it to do so under current US State Department regulations.
The Representative Council will vote in May on new MHSAA Handbook language to place international students under a one-year limit of participation, whether it's with a J-1 or F-1 visa and whether they attend a public or nonpublic school.