How To Make Money Hosting A Foreign Exchange Student
By: Cheryl Moore, AmeriStudent Staffer
Aside from traveling abroad yourself, there’s perhaps no better way to learn firsthand about cultural differences and other worldviews than by hosting an international student. Host parents and families can learn so much through the day-to-day interactions with their student, both in the positive conversations and memories and in the challenges that come from sharing a roof with someone who is used to doing things differently. Through the ups and downs, hosting is a very enriching experience for everyone, both the student and the host family!
The best host families are ones who are motivated by this desire to learn and grow from the experience, regardless of whether they are compensated financially or not. But paid homestay arrangements are generally the norm these days, and it’s certainly reasonable for host parents to be compensated to offset the expenses that come with feeding, housing, and transporting a student.
These paid homestay opportunities have widened the appeal of hosting an international student, and more and more people are looking to host to bring in an additional stream of income. It’s important to keep in mind though that hosting a student should never be undertaken lightly, and a person or family should think through the implications on their lives thoroughly before they agree to host. You can check out our Complete Guide to Hosting A Student here which will help guide you in this process.
For this article though, we want to focus in on the financial considerations when it comes to hosting an international student, as questions about the stipend and the responsibilities of the host family to receive that stipend are some of the first questions that get asked.
Unpaid Vs. Paid Hosting...And Why That Matters
As we mentioned above, the norm these days is for host families to be paid for providing room and board to an international student, but this was not always the case. Foreign exchange programs used to be the norm, where there was an actual one-to-one exchange of students across borders - one student goes to study abroad and another comes here to the U.S. These exchange programs utilized unpaid homestays, and even today, families who host exchange students on a J-1 visa are not permitted to be paid. The idea of these exchange programs was that the experience should be a purely learning one, where a student stays with a host family to simply observe and learn from the cultural exchange.
Today though, most internationals who come to study in the U.S. are here to do just that, study. They are seeking an educational degree or experience and need room and board along the way, and they are therefore prepared to pay for it. Homestay companies serve as a liaison between host families and students, seeking out and qualifying potential hosts, and offering homestay options to students looking to stay with a host family during their studies.
The differences between these unpaid and paid hosting opportunities are important to note because it can potentially influence how you and your student view each other right off the bat. The transactional nature of the paid homestay relationship in no way dooms the arrangement, but it can become a point of contention between students and hosts when expectations on either side are not met.
There are so many factors that help a homestay arrangement to succeed that have nothing to do with financial considerations, but the influence that paid arrangements can have on a hosting relationship is worth mentioning as it is part of the broader picture of the financial dimensions of hosting. Relationships usually grow best, if a host parent is willing to enter the arrangement determined to support and diligently care for his or her student, regardless of pay.
Find A Hosting Agency for Exchange Students
Once you decide that you’d like to be a paid host family, you will need to find a company or agency to work with, and this may take a bit more effort than you think. The international student industry has grown exponentially in recent years, and there are more agencies than ever clamoring to find good host families. This wealth of options is good in that it allows potential hosts to shop around for a company to work with, but it also means that the best outcome requires some research on your part to find a reputable and reliable company. In the sea of homestay companies that exist, there are unfortunately a number of them that are taking shortcuts or operating inefficiently. At best, this can cause headaches and confusion for the host family when they are looking for answers or support, and at worst, it can mean an unsafe environment for either the student or the host family.
With this reality in view, it means that you should ultimately not base the decision to work with an agency solely on who can pay you the highest stipend. Working with a good, safe, and experienced company is worth far more than the extra $50 or $100/month you could make with an unreliable or inexperienced company.
Do your due diligence and find a company that is reputable, stable, transparent about the expectations you are agreeing to in order to receive the stipend, and that will actually pay you as promised! The best companies will also guarantee support and advice for when (not if) challenges arise with your student.
You can learn more about how to find a good hosting agency in our Complete Guide to Hosting An International Student, but here is a quick rundown of some other things to look for:
- Are they CSIET accredited? The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) is a neutral watchdog non-profit that outlines strict safety and efficiency standards for the homestay industry. A company that is CSIET certified (like AmeriStudent proudly is) will have had to pass a rigorous yearly audit of their operations. This can offer some peace of mind to a potential host family that the company is being held accountable to a third party for how it operates.
- Do they answer your questions completely and in a timely manner?
- Do they have everything in order when it comes to details about safety, insurance, and legal documentation?
- Do they have a proven track record in the international student industry?
- Are they transparent about what they expect from you as a host family?
Your Responsibilities As A Paid Host Family
Before we get to the issue of pay, you should know just what you are expected to provide to earn that income. Many people just see the stipend amount and assume it will be a chunk of easy, extra cash each month. But remember that you are being paid to provide some specific services, and it’s good to consider how much of your stipend will be going toward these required expenses.
While of course it can vary from company to company, most homestay companies require the same few basic amenities for long-term, academic year students:
- A private bedroom, closet space, and possibly a desk or table so the student can study
- 3 meals a day
- Transportation to and from school for all academic-related activities
We’ll get into some of the details of these expenses as well as some other miscellaneous costs in a bit...
How Much Money Can You Make Hosting A Foreign Exchange Student?
This is perhaps the first thing people want to know when it comes to hosting a student, but the question is actually a bit more complicated than you’d think.
First, it depends on whether you are looking to host a short-term student or a long-term student. Short-term students come to stay for camps or classes that typically last anywhere from a week to a few weeks at the most. For these short-term homestays, the daily stipend varies significantly from company to company and region to region. But generally speaking, host families can expect to make anywhere from $30-$60/day, sometimes more, sometimes less. AmeriStudent typically compensates our short-term families in this range.
Long-term students stay with you for an entire academic semester or year (usually year) - about 10 months. Here again, the stipend amount can vary, but in this instance not only from company to company, but region to region. The cost of living in a particular city or area usually has some bearing on the stipend amount - the stipend would be higher in a place like Orange County in Southern California than it would be for the same student in somewhere like a midsize city in Oklahoma. Competition (or lack thereof) between companies can also influence the stipend amount, as companies tend to offer a similar stipend range in a particular market or area to remain competitive with each other.
Generally speaking, homestay companies are paying around $900/month at minimum these days. AmeriStudent stipends are currently ranging from $1,000-$1,400/month for our long-term, academic year students, depending on the location.
Keep in mind also that when you get paid varies from company to company. Some will pay the stipend at the beginning of each month, while AmeriStudent pays at the end of the month. You will need to find out beforehand from your company how they operate so that you can plan accordingly.
Costs of Hosting a Foreign Exchange Student
So you’re excited about the monthly stipend, but again, you have to remember that hosting a student does come with responsibilities and added expenses to your monthly household budget.
As we stated above, most companies typically require the same basic list of services - a private bedroom, 3 meals a day, and transportation to and from school. Within this seemingly short list though are expenses you may not have thought of, so let’s break those down.
Providing a private bedroom, closet space, and desk
Remember that an additional member of the household means more electricity used, more water used, and another Internet user taking up bandwidth.
Just as you wouldn’t want to walk into a hotel room or Airbnb to find musty sheets, old ragged towels, and a lumpy mattress, your student would be greatly distressed to walk into their new home and find that sort of welcome. If needed, buying a fresh new set of bedding, sheets, towels, and perhaps even a new mattress for your student will go a long way in making them feel welcome and at ease in your home. At the least, you should consider these extra expenses and not automatically assume that you “already have everything” in this area.
- Desk and Storage Space
Obviously, if your homestay company requires you to provide a desk or table in the room for your student and you don’t already have one there, that will be another item you’ll need to purchase. Additionally, the student will need some closet space or way to store their belongings, so if you have a full closet and can’t empty it for the student, you will need to purchase some alternate storage items for their use.
- Tidying the Room
Let’s be honest, not all of us are great at deep cleaning, or we just don’t have the time. Take an honest assessment of the room and bathroom your student will be using, and determine if you might need to have both spaces professionally cleaned. You can certainly ask that your student clean and maintain the spaces that they use (or at least help out with that task), but some spaces just need that deep cleaning for it to be ready for a student to use in the first place.
- Increasing Your Grocery Budget
Even if you don’t make all three meals at home every day, you almost certainly do some regular grocery shopping, so keep in mind you will now have to factor in an additional person for each meal. Food can become a major source of contention between students and host families, and it’s best not to push your student to eat everything you eat right off the bat. Most students need some time to get used to the American diet, so expect to be buying some extra grocery items just for your student that they are comfortable eating - especially in the beginning.
- Going Out to Eat
Company policies vary here, but generally speaking and within reason, you will need to pay for your student for meals out. If you do not want to pay for their bill, you will need to at least inform them beforehand and then possibly make alternate arrangements for them.
- Gas and Mileage
Some host families and host parents already have a member of the household attending or working at the school where their international student studies. For them, there is not much of a need to factor in extra gas and mileage costs to transporting their student because it’s already part of their expenses and routine. However, if this is not the case, you will obviously need to factor in gas and wear and mileage as an extra expense to come out of your stipend.
- School-Related Transportation
It is imperative that you check with your company beforehand about the details regarding transportation. Are you only required to to take your student to and from school each day? What about extracurricular activities? Transportation may be a much bigger drain on your time and gas budget than you originally expect if the student is involved in activities or sports. Keep in mind that some activities and sports don’t just mean a longer school day but additional trips back and forth to school or even to an off-site gym or meeting meeting location, not to mention games or tournaments on weekends. Talk with your company about some of these possibilities and keep in mind that this component of caring for your student may turn out to be bigger than you originally thought it would.
Tax Considerations of Hosting A Foreign Exchange Student
Since hosting for money involves, well, money, you will also need to determine how your stipend affects your tax situation. Most companies these days have you fill out a W-9 at the beginning of the year and then issue a 1099 at tax time. In essence, you are treated and paid like an independent contractor to the company, and you will need to pay taxes on this income (an additional subtraction coming out of your your monthly stipend).
It’s a good idea to do the math yourself or talk to your tax professional about this factor so you know what to expect when tax season rolls around.
Other Things To Think About Before You Host An International Student for Money
We’ve outlined some of the financial considerations with hosting a student, but it’s good to keep in mind that hosting for money is about more than the dollars and cents of the matter. The fact of the matter is that hosting comes with joys and challenges that can render the numbers inconsequential. If you host a student who meshes well with your family and becomes a joy to have in your home, the stipend will seem like a grand bonus, the cherry on top of an already wonderful situation. But if you end up at odds with your student over a prolonged period of time for any number of reasons, there’s little comfort that the stipend can provide in the midst of that stressful situation.
Thankfully, most homestay arrangements end up on the positive or very positive side, and it’s rare for a family to have an entirely negative experience. Still, it’s good for anyone considering hosting to go into the experience with both eyes open and the right perspective. So here are some additional considerations when hosting for money. You can find additional information on this topic in our related blog post, “3 Things To Know About Hosting An International Student for Income.”
- Treat Hosting Like A Part-Time Job
As we’ve mentioned, hosting a student is not “free” money. It requires time and effort, and the stipend is compensation for what you need to provide for your student. Therefore it’s best to think of hosting like it’s a part-time job. Over time, things usually smooth out and good routines are established with your student, but you can’t go into hosting expecting that there will be little disruption to your free time or budget. Being flexible and going into hosting with accurate and reasonable expectations will go a long way toward a positive experience. You should also endeavor to do this job with excellence, quality care, and compassion. In teaching, the best teachers are the ones who go the extra mile to really invest in their students, not those who just do the bare minimum. Your perspective should be the same when hosting.
- Hosting Can Be an Unpredictable Source of Income
On occasion and for any number of reasons, a homestay arrangement may not work out to it’s full 10-month completion. While not the norm, you should know that this is always at least a possibility. In the event it happens your income from hosting will end abruptly as well, at least for the remainder of that year. Be sure and check with your company beforehand as to what their policies are and what happens to the stipend if a student moves out mid-year.
Lastly, if you want to host students for multiple years, keep in mind that you won’t be receiving the stipend in the summer months when the student is on break, so you will need to budget for the decreased income in those months.
Earn Money Hosting An International Student with AmeriStudent
We hope this article equips you to begin your hosting journey with your eyes wide open, aware of all the realities that come with hosting an international student for money. As is the case with any worthwhile undertaking, hosting comes with its unique set of challenges and requires time and effort on your part, but most host families will tell you it’s all worth it in the end!
So why don’t you join us??
AmeriStudent is an established, CSIET-certified company and we are always looking to grow our pool of qualified host families. We know that hosting is a significant commitment on your part, so we are equally committed to supporting you 100% along the way. We offer competitive stipends, 24/7 support, and access to a local representative.
To find out more about our application process and what it looks like to be an AmeriStudent host family, click HERE.
If you are ready to jump in and apply you can find our application form HERE. It should only take you 5-10 minutes to complete, and you will be contacted within a few business days by an AmeriStudent representative to walk you further into the process.
If you have any questions or just want to speak with a representative, contact us today! We are happy to help you kickstart your hosting journey with AmeriStudent!