Too many programs take your money but give you little in return— or enrich your skimming university. Here’s how to choose the right one.
Finals might be over for the year, but summer is peak study-abroad season, so for many American college students, a new adventure begins: Overstuffed backpacks! Malaria shots! The superpack of Durexes (alas, to remain unused)!
The vast majority of study-abroad programs are eligible for financial aid—but does that make them a bargain? These days, a number of college study-abroad programs are less about cultural enrichment, and more about enriching the for-profit companies that run them—or, ugh, the universities themselves, which often get foreign tuition for a steal, and then pass none of the savings along to students.
The New York state Legislature is concerned about this: Both its chambers have sponsored bills (one by Republican Kenneth LaValle; the other by Democrat Deborah Glick) that would require the state’s universities to disclose the actual costs of their study-abroad programs—including any perquisites (that is, free stuff) offered to university employees in exchange for enrollment. The bill comes, Inside Higher Edreports, as a result of an investigation begun in 2007 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (then attorney general), in which he suspected universities were “being unduly influenced by perks like free or subsidized overseas travel and commissions on student fees.”
As the number of students going abroad has more than tripled in the past two decades, hundreds of unscrupulous ventures have popped up to meet students’demand for the broadening of horizons (and, OK, the lowering of the drinking age). The red flags of a foreign-exchange flimflam artist can be pretty easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for. But many of those warning signs become obscured once a program has been given a university’s official partnership and good name. . . . .