Posted on 30 October 2014.
Wendy Brown (jr), center, travelled to Italy for a study abroad program, paying slightly more than a regular semester at IWU.
Photography major Wendy Brown (jr) had a life-changing experience in Orvieto, Italy, last spring, studying art at a Gordon College facility and raking up 18 credits in the process, all of which counted toward her Indiana Wesleyan University degree.
Brown paid about $1,000 more than a semester’s tuition at IWU–a cost that was more manageable thanks to an outside scholarship she received. Even without the scholarship, she said she would have paid it all.
“That experience is worth every penny,” Brown said. “I would have paid $4,000 [more than IWU tuition]. I didn’t have to, but I would have, looking back. I think it’s invaluable, the experience you have.”
Contrary to what many students may think, the cost of study abroad programs is not much more than a semester at IWU, Education Abroad Supervisor Sandy Emmett said. According to Emmett, costs aren’t the problem concerning students as much as a lack of financial aid.
“Everybody needs to be on the same page when they’re talking [about studying abroad],” Emmett said. “It doesn’t cost more. … It’s just more out of pocket for the students.”
The average semester study abroad program costs about $16,000-16,500, Emmett said. This year, a semester at IWU, including room and board, is $15,907.
Since students receive IWU credit for courses they take abroad, they are charged at least full tuition at IWU, which currently stands at $12,051 per semester. Students also pay the remainder of a program’s tuition cost (if it exceeds IWU’s) as well as the program’s room and board and additional fees.
Students also pay a $50 IWU Global Engagement fee, which covers pre-orientation and application processing fees.
The cheapest semester abroad trip is the Uganda Studies Program at about $14,601. The most expensive trip is the Los Angeles term at Azusa Pacific University, totalling at about $20,823.
IWU carries over federal and state financial aid into these study abroad programs, Emmett said, but the same doesn’t quite go for institutional aid.
Students who have been approved and accepted into a study abroad program can apply for the IWU Global Studies Grant, a pool of funds the Board of Trustees has set aside for education abroad programs, Emmett said. This fund is distributed among students in fall, spring and beginning this year, May and summer programs.
“I would love to give every student the same amount that they would get here. That would be wonderful,” Emmett said. “We just don’t have that amount available to us.”
Brown received about half the amount of her academic scholarships, which were not too large to begin with, she said. To compensate, she applied for about 15 outside study abroad scholarships and received one or two.
Director of Financial Aid David Solms said when IWU hands out academic scholarships, it is actually just “discounting” the price of tuition for students who bring academic merit to campus.
“When a student chooses to go and study at another institution for the semester, we are not in the business of discounting [those costs],” Solms said, “but the institution does want to be able to help students.”
This led to the creation of the Global Studies Grant. As more students study abroad, however, the funds are more thinly distributed among students. Solms said he is “hopeful” that as more students express an interest in education abroad, there will be more resources available.
According to Emmett, the number of students studying abroad for a semester has grown, jumping from three in fall 2011 to 16 in fall 2014.
Director of Global Studies, Dr. Jim Vermilya, outlined two proposals the Global Studies Committee has worked on to address students’ financial challenges with education abroad.
The first proposal, recently approved, extended the IWU World Changers Scholarship and Global Studies Grant to May and summer IWU-run programs, Vermilya said via email to The Sojourn. These were previously available to semester trips only.
A second proposal is now in the works that would request tuition costs for IWU-run travel classes and abroad programs cross over into some in-country expenses for the class. This, in turn, would decrease travel costs for students.
According to Vermilya, the proposal “has been received positively” and “is currently under review.” He expects an answer by the end of the semester.
“The ultimate hope is that … more students will have an option of doing education abroad,” Emmett said. “In the long-term look, this is going to open up education abroad to a lot more students.”
Until then, the Global Studies office continues to give students a list of resources on how to receive outside financial aid.
When preparing for a semester abroad, Brown said “you really do have to think through every little thing.” One must consider passport payments, visa payments and additional costs surrounding those.
“It is intimidating at first, but when you really get down … and look at your options, it’s … actually very doable,” Brown said. “Don’t write it off right away.”