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The Blue & Gray Press | December 15, 2017

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Study Abroad Should Be Affordable for All

BY JONATHAN WIGGINTON

The University of Mary Washington, like many other area schools, is a university that encourages its students to experience the wonderful opportunity of studying abroad.

Students agree: studying abroad is something that should be experienced before graduating, no matter what the costs.

“Would I do it again? Duh,” said junior Joe Oschrin, who is currently in the midst of a 12-month program in Paris, France.

Oschrin is not alone. Students all over campus say their experiences abroad are something that they will remember forever, and many hope to travel abroad sometime soon.

One of the more popular trips offered at UMW is the European Capitals program, a 6-credit, 26-day, summer trip organized by the Department of History and American Studies in cooperation with the Department of Political Science and International Affairs.

This trip includes traveling to London, Paris, Vienna, Venice, and Rome, all must-see cities if you are going to travel to Europe.

However, the price tag is a large deterring factor for many students, especially out-of-state students. Students must first pony-up $5,550 for things such as airfare, accommodations, and transportation between cities. Next, if you are an out-of-state student, you must throw down $4,212 for the tuition, which is $2,790 more than in-state students.

This isn’t where the expenses stop. Things that are not included are of course spending money, as well as lunches and dinners.

Becca L’Heureux, a junior who spent five weeks of her 2008 summer abroad in Paris said, “I didn’t buy any clothes, and I still spent about $2,000 on day-to-day things.”

When added to the trip and tuition costs, out-of-state students may look to spend around $11,000 dollars while in-state students are looking at about $8,000.

Mary Turner, a commuter student at UMW, said the prices were just plain outrageous.

“I have a mortgage, a husband, and two kids. A student like myself who is already struggling, has zero chance of doing something like a summer trip,” said Turner.

With families trying to save money, an $8,000+, 26-day study abroad excursion is something many parents would laugh at. In addition, students who are paying their own way through college simply cannot afford to run up even more student loans on a trip that only garners them six credits.

“That’s more [the $8,000 estimate] than what I pay in tuition for a whole year with nearly 24 credits,” said Turner.

Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that many feel must be enjoyed, and junior year is the time to do it. In the first years of college, you are feeling out the university, while the last year of college, you are spending time with the friends you’ve made over the past three years.

Studying abroad for a semester or, in some cases, the whole year seems to be the financially smart thing to do. This is because you spend a semester abroad, earn yourself your typical courseload of credits (around 15), and pay your normal UMW tuition, which, for in-state students, is a steal. Additionally, the best scholarships are offered to those who study abroad for a semester or a year.

While friends from other schools hop on planes left and right, some students in Fredericksburg are stuck here this summer, wishing they could go. While money is definitely a part of the equation, the university should have an obligation to try and make it affordable to all who wish to partake: in-state, out-of-state, married commuters, and students struggling with loans.

Scholarships and loans are both offered at UMW, but who wants to tack on another student loan? While there are a fair number of scholarships, many of them are extremely competitive, offering help to one or two students. The ones that are not competitive offer insignificant amounts of money.

According to Director of International Academic Services, Christopher Musick, a popular scholarship for summer studies abroad offers $500. Although the gesture is appreciated, when you are going to spend from $8,000-$11,000 on a trip to Europe, $500 is chump change.

UMW needs to make the European Capitals tour more affordable, especially since it seems to be one of the most popular study abroad programs offered here.

“I feel like many of the extra programs [like the European Capitals] offered at UMW are geared around students who have full or at least partial support from their parents,” said Turner.

Ideally, anyone who wants to study abroad should have a legitimate opportunity. They shouldn’t have to make a significant dent in their parents or their own bank account. If a student wanted to take part in a one-month study abroad, they shouldn’t have to throw down close to $11,000.