Study abroad under scrutiny

Many universities need to be clearer regarding their transfer policies.

Study abroad programs and costs at universities across the country have been closely scrutinized recently. Some colleges charge students regular tuition and even room and board while they study in a foreign country.

One of those schools, Wheaton College in Massachusetts, has been pulled into a lawsuit for charging a student $21,440 for full tuition, room and board. The program the student attended in South America cost about $17,000, but Wheaton’s policies required her to pay its rates in order to receive “at-home” credit while attending a different program.

The University doesn’t follow the same policy and offers relative flexibility in studying abroad or even creating independent programs. Other institutions of higher education should be as flexible.

New York and Connecticut attorneys general have begun investigating the financial connections between universities and study abroad programs to find out if colleges are overcharging students who study abroad and if they are being up-front about their policies.

At the University, students can travel abroad and attend foreign schools through formal programs, such as Council on International Educational Exchange and IES.

These programs have some benefits, but also some limitations. Students might be placed with host families, required to go on organized excursions or spend time with mainly students from the U.S. These programs typically cost more than tuition for the host school, require essays and lengthy applications and sometimes request payment before financial aid has been disbursed.

But students still have the possibility of studying at the host school and receiving university credit by applying to an “outside program.”

Luckily at the University, students have the option of applying directly to the host school and receiving transfer credit, if it meets the University’s accreditation standards.