A Broad Demand

By Madeline Mann • Opinion Editor

Let’s face it — study abroad is a big deal on college campuses. Every quarter there seems to be a student or two who snags the professor’s microphone before lecture and preaches about the joys of the study abroad program. And every other week, an email spamming a certain major reminds students about study abroad info sessions. UCSD is committed to encouraging its students to pack up and leave, and according to Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, UCSD has a goal of sending 50 percent of its undergraduates abroad by Fall 2013. This push to send half of its students abroad is an unnecessary focus for UCSD, because while studying abroad may be a worthwhile supplement to the college experience, it is simply not financially feasible for many students.

Ultimately, the cost of a study abroad experience varies on where you go and your living arrangements. Tuition abroad is comparable to UCSD’s out-of-state tuition. However, if you are an in-state student your tuition will shoot up to approximately $20,000. Keep in mind that this is in addition to the costs of transportation, food and supplemental excursions.

And while the Programs Abroad Office has promoted study abroad’s affordability to those students who already have financial aid, the cost relief doesn’t extend to all students. The office meets the financial aid need of the 40 percent of study abroad students who are in the high financial need category. This does not help the middle class students who are just above the cut-off for financial aid, but lack the financial flexibility to take months off much needed jobs to go abroad. 

San Diego State University is one example. The college requires over 4,000 students in 24 programs to go abroad every year, which has caused a backlash of disgruntled students who can’t afford the trip. San Diego State offers an option to take a nine-day trip to Tijuana for $900, but even this compromise is asking too much of some students. To require students to leave the country in the midst of their college careers completely ignores the fact that students do more than go to class — they have jobs, family obligations and other personal responsibilities. Such was the case of a 26-year-old San Diego State student pursuing a degree in social work, whose $400 scholarship for her trip to Mexico was not enough to compensate for childcare for her two children, the missed days at work and the emotional distress of separation she experienced while abroad. 

Al Sweedler, San Diego State’s assistant vice president for international programs explains the purpose of the requirement is because “all students should get an international experience.” While the UCSD study abroad program similarly characterizes studying abroad as an experience that expands students’ worldviews and helps them to get to know themselves, studying abroad is still a luxury for most.

However, it isn’t hard to see why universities encourage students to go abroad, as there are certain advantages to doing a study abroad program while in school versus post graduation. According to a 2010 survey performed by the International Center Office, 93.7 percent of UCSD study abroad alumni reported that the cross-cultural skills learned while abroad proved professionally valuable, while 51.4 percent agreed that study abroad influenced their career choices. 

It’s pretty clear why UCSD administration is pushing the study abroad experience — UCSD as a whole reaps benefits as well. Increasing the number of students abroad makes UCSD appear to be a more internationally-minded school, with 22 percent of its undergraduates going abroad as compared to the national average of three percent, according to the Programs Abroad Office. UCSD comes in third place for sending the most students abroad in the UC system, only to be outnumbered by, you guessed it, Berkeley and UCLA.

As for losing money on these students who are no longer paying full tuition, UCSD isn’t sweating. Students who go abroad still pay UC fees (you can’t get away from them that easily). Also, every year UCSD brings in approximately 260 international students who pay $22,878 in tuition, compared to the $13,234 that Californian students pay. Sending students abroad is healthy for the university’s economy and boosts its prestige — no wonder colleges are so adamant about it.

Personally, I will choose to not study abroad because I not only need to work, but I love UCSD and I don’t want to miss even a quarter of it. China, Ireland and Australia will all still be there waiting for me when I graduate, so after I’ve utilized my UCSD experience to the fullest, I will be able to explore the world on my own terms. 

Readers can contact Madeline Mann at [email protected]
 

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