With per pupil funding decreasing in Indiana, educators are searching for ways to generate revenue. In Kokomo, one district has turned an abandoned building into a residence hall for international students — a concept largely untried among public schools in the state — hoping to bring in more than a quarter million dollars for the school corporation and potentially much more for the city.
For much of the last four years, Kokomo city leaders, from Mayor Greg Goodnight on down, have been working to help the community recover from a recession that left one in five residents jobless and made the city the subject of news coverage documenting its woes.
—Jeff Hauswald, superintendent
“Whether people accept it or want to accept it or not, we live in a global economy,” says Goodnight. “And the more that we can do to diversify our businesses, diversity our industry and also diversity our population, I think it’s only going to be a benefit for us.”
It’s a mantel recently taken up by Kokomo-Center School Corporation officials. They needed more money to expand AP class offerings and help fund an international baccalaureate program — all during a time when competition for students among Howard County’s five school corporations has never been more fierce or funding hard to find. Neighboring corporations are sending buses into Kokomo to bring students outside the city for class. The schools in the city are buying billboard space touting their accomplishments in hopes of making parents choose one district over another.
So they’re building enrollment — quite literally by building. In downtown Kokomo, carpenters hammer intricate wood molding into space above doorways and bulldozers move dirt and debris outside the dorm in anticipation of the students’ arrival. Kokomo-Center officials contracted with a local architect to lease and refurbish what was once a candy store — run, appropriately, by immigrants to the city in the early 1900s.
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Senior Jose Valdivia of Bolivia came to Kokomo because he thinks going to an high school in Indiana will make it easier to get into an American university. Valdivia, who wants to study engineering, says his top picks are Purdue and Texas A&M.