A stronger euro makes for poorer traveling students

Nathan Halverson

A depreciating dollar and slumping economy have left students interested in studying abroad with some tough choices.

The euro is up more than 15 percent on the dollar over the past two years, which means less money for students traveling while studying abroad, Global Campus director Al Balkcum said.

“That is an incredible increase,” said Tim Kehoe, a University economics professor.

“I was in Europe in July,” Kehoe said. “It was a lot more expensive than it was in April 2001.”

Balkcum said the number of students studying abroad has slowed as some are “working a little harder to find the funding.”

“Any time the dollar depreciates or the economy slows, students are concerned,” Balkcum said.

From 1997 to 2001, the number of students traveling abroad grew an average of 25 percent per year. Last year, the program grew by only 11 percent, he said.

David Almeida, a political science and bio-chemistry senior who traveled to Europe this summer, said he worried more than on previous trips about how much money he spent.

“It made me watch my money more closely. I would think twice before going out to bars, enjoying the night life,” he said. “You’re trying to live on a budget of $35 a day.”

Kehoe said corporate accounting scandals have played a large role in devaluing the dollar.

European investors were shaken by the fraud, and as a result began pulling money out of U.S. equities.

When more Europeans are converting dollars into euros than euros into dollars, the value of the dollar decreases against the euro.

Balkcum said even though the dollar doesn’t go as far any more, Global Campus is attempting to keep study-abroad program costs from rising no more than 3-5 percent.

But if they were stuck paying 15-20 percent more for a program, because of the depreciating dollar, Global Campus would find ways to subsidize the program so only half of that would be paid by students, Balkcum said.

Overall, costs are kept down by signing multi-year contracts less susceptible to market fluctuations and by refusing to work with foreign programs that demand substantial increases, Balkcum said.

Yet for the first time in two years, the department will raise its fees.

Balkcum said the University was less affected than other schools because the amount of available scholarship money has increased dramatically from $50,000 to more than $225,000 during the last five years.

Some students are electing to go to cheaper countries, staying away from areas like Western Europe.

Global Campus has seen a surge in the number of students studying in China.

Almeida said he spent more time in Eastern Europe because it was cheaper.

He said although traveling took more effort, it didn’t hamper his fun.

“Part of traveling is working with your budget,” he said.