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‘Mix It Up Monday’

Chinese and American students occupy separate tables in the cafeteria, said senior Justin Gerard. To encourage mingling, the student government held a “Mix It Up Monday” last year. “It was a moderate success,” he said.

The clustering of Chinese students in the dining room doesn’t bother Conrad. “They need that opportunity to decompress,” he said.

Chinese students dominate advanced math classes, students said. Lauren Bass was one of two Americans in her math class last year along with a dozen Chinese, she said. “It was an interesting class, especially when we would do group work,” said Bass, now a freshman at the University of Vermont[20].

“The Chinese students would speak in Chinese,” she said. “I’d sit there with them and I’d have no idea what was going on.”

If a Chinese student was having difficulty in class, the teacher communicated with parents through an agency, said Lindamood, associate director of international programs at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota[21].

Messages Controlled

“If a student was struggling academically, I would contact the agency,” she said. “Grade reports went to the agency. They controlled the message back home to the parents.”

This interposition between school and parent is a hallmark of International Student Education Services Inc.[22] in Pottstown, Pennsylvania[23], which Conrad said supplies “half or less than half” of Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall’s Chinese students. ISES represents 57 U.S. high schools, and works with more than 100 agents in China, including Shen’s agency, EIC Group. The agents sent hundreds of Chinese students to U.S. high schools through ISES in 2010.

Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall depends on ISES for international students because the small school can’t afford to market itself worldwide, Conrad said. “We turn away many students from ISES whom we don’t believe are mission-appropriate,” he said.

When a student is placed, ISES receives a tuition discount from the school and charges the family full price, according to a person familiar with its operation. It shares the difference with the Chinese agent. By acting as a conduit for a school’s contact with parents, ISES collects a portion of returning students’ tuition, said the person familiar with ISES.

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