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Department works to keep abroad costs down

Some students planning on studying abroad next semester may face increased fees and different cultural excursion experiences than those who have traveled before them. However, the departments of Romance and Classical Studies and German, Russian and East Asian Languages are working to keep costs down while maintaining the educational value of the trips.

Cynthia Whipple, director for Romance and Classical Studies Abroad programs in France, Spain, Italy and Burkina Faso, said fees are being raised and expenses abroad are being cut due to the weakened state of the dollar, increasing costs in Europe and the University tuition freeze since 2007.

‘You just can’t get as much for your money,’ Whipple said. ‘We’re in a situation where what we’re charging for room and board is not covering the cost of what we’re spending.’

Whipple said students studying abroad spring semester will notice a decrease in the number of cultural excursions offered, and students traveling to France in the fall will have to pay more for the optional two-week program in Paris due to a lack of funding. She said next year’s room and board fee, which includes the cost of orientation programs and cultural excursions, may be raised. The department will provide students with its estimated fees in January, and the estimates will either be set or changed by the University Board of Trustees in February.

‘I think we’re going through a really rough patch right now,’ Whipple said. ‘It’s painful to have to raise our fees and it’s painful ‘hellip; to cut some of our expenses abroad, which we’ve had to do.’

Whipple said the department is working to make changes without compromising the educational value of its programs. An on-site resident director for the study abroad program in Spain every summer, Whipple said examples of cost reductions include having students reside in cheaper hotels and stopping the provision of transportation passes that weren’t highly used by undergraduates.

‘We have to try to cut where we can in a way that’s not going to affect the academic experience for the students and ‘hellip; raise our fees where it’s necessary,’ she said.

Nathan Richardson, chair of the Department of Romance and Classical Studies, said changes in the ways the University administers money is another reason why the department is making changes.

‘We’re under pressure to make our programs more economically feasible,’ he said. ‘We used to have much more control over our budgets. … The funding model at the University is changing and becoming more centralized … and so we don’t have as much control over the money coming in.’

Richardson said the changes in financial control have proven difficult for the department.

‘We are running the program a bit in the dark,’ he said, ‘because we can plan and we can budget, but in the end we can’t guarantee what monies are going to follow the students.’

Budgeting changes are also being made to some of the study abroad programs in Russia, Austria, China and Japan, which are offered through the Department of German, Russian and East Asian Languages.

Funding has been reduced this year in the department, and it is ‘planning for the possibility of further reductions in funding,’ said Timothy Pogacar, department chair.

‘We’ve been cutting expenditures for the past four to five years,’ Pogacar said. ‘We are reducing costs and ‘hellip; the educational excursions or field trips associated with the program are now paid almost wholly by the students in the form of fees. That trend has been going on for three years.’

Pogacar said fees for the semester-long Austria program have increased by 25 percent over the past three years, while the summer program fees for Austria, Russia and Japan haven’t increased as much.

‘In the current year we’ve economized on the co-curricular activities in the Austria program,’ Pogacar said. ‘For example, there are two program trips, large trips, one to Vienna and one to Berlin in Germany, and we’re doing those at reduced prices as compared to previous years.’

Pogacar said the department has been reducing the cost of those trips for several years by shortening them and changing the lodging and transportation options available to students.

‘But we’re not compromising the educational value,’ he added. ‘What we’re trying to do is reduce expenditures and increase the number of students taking part in order to offset any possible reductions in funding.’

Whipple encouraged students to consider adding to their educational experience overseas.

‘I don’t want students to get discouraged from studying abroad because they should do it,’ Whipple said. ‘It makes you so much more marketable than lots of other graduates. It really gives you a lot of self confidence.’

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