U adds scholarships to boost study abroad numbers

The University wants half of all students to study abroad in the next five years.

by Meghan Holden

Taryn Bitterly applied for a scholarship to study abroad last May, but like many University of Minnesota students, her request was denied.

Bitterly had to take out loans and work all semester to help fund her trip to Spain and Morocco — a situation that the University hopes to mitigate by boosting scholarships for students looking to study abroad.

“Clearly, we have a lot more students wanting to get scholarships than we’re able to award right now,” Martha Johnson, the University’s assistant dean of learning abroad.

Following in the footsteps of a national campaign, the Learning Abroad Center is hoping to increase the number of students who study abroad to 50 percent and raise $1.5 million for scholarships annually by 2019.

The University’s initiative is in line with the Institute of International Education’s recent campaign to double the number of students nationwide who study abroad by the end of the decade. Currently, about one-third of Twin Cities campus graduates leave with an international experience.

The University ranked third in the nation for the number of students who studied abroad for credit in the 2011-12 school year. Although the University’s study abroad rates are high, Johnson said, with the increased scholarships, even more students will have access to the programs.

About one-fourth of students who applied for scholarships were given awards in the last round of applications, according to the Learning Abroad Center.

“I have friends who haven’t studied abroad because of the financial cost,” Bitterly said. “I wanted to go badly enough that I was willing to take out loans and stretch means to do it, but for some students, that’s not feasible.”

The Learning Abroad Center is working with college deans and department heads to raise the money.

Donations from alumni and corporations are a key component of funding for scholarships, said Anne D’Angelo, assistant dean for global initiatives in the Carlson School of Management.

CSOM students have been required to study abroad since 2008, giving the school an initial push to increase its donation efforts. This approach has been successful in Carlson, where last year, about 60 percent of its students who applied for study abroad scholarships received awards.

Mechanical engineering sophomore Aaron Grant said he’ll start applying for scholarships through the College of Liberal Arts in the fall, but he might have to delay his plans to study abroad next summer by a year to save up money if he isn’t awarded one.

“I’m just going to be trying my best to find everything I’m eligible for,” he said.

Despite the costs, study abroad is an important learning experience, Grant said.

Business leaders on the Carlson Global Institute’s advisory council have told the college that they’ve seen a shortage in applicants with a global mindset, D’Angelo said.

Less than 10 percent of students in the U.S. graduate with study abroad experience, according to a 2013 IIE Open Doors report.

Studying abroad helps students learn to communicate with and understand other cultures, Johnson said, and that will put them ahead in the job market.

“It has a positive impact, and to make that available to as many students as possible is a good thing,” she said.


Blair Emerson contributed to this report.