Affordability of education abroad

 

Once the haze of being accepted into the USF in Florence summer abroad program wore off, reality kicked in and showed up asking for payments.

Louise Cardenas, 19, didn’t expect to be in such a financial bind. Finances had never been an issue since she had been receiving aid since her first semester at USF. With no coverage being offered for her trip over the summer months, Cardenas was at a crossroads.

“I don’t think that abroad programs are affordable for the average student  trying to minimize unnecessary spending,” Cardenas said. “The only way to realistically study abroad is by paying out of pocket because you can’t count on scholarships or financial aid.”

The USF Education Abroad office has well-established programs in over 25 countries giving students a variety of choices, but many shy away from the thought of even applying because studying abroad is associated with being unaffordable.

Students are encouraged to seize the opportunity to take anywhere from a semester to a year abroad. While the motivation for studying abroad for each student is different, the most common reason is for the experience and introduction of a new culture.

Students already hold the financial responsibilities of paying up to $6,410 for tuition alone not including housing, books or miscellaneous expenses. Any additional financial expenses could be difficult to fund.

Each program cost varies on the location and the amount of time spent on the program. Most semester programs are estimated on the higher end of about $5,000 for tuition and housing. When adding on airfare, passport fees, books and travel money, the price dramatically increases. Students must consider whether the experience is worth the stress it could bring financially.

Jim Pulos, the associate director of Education Abroad, has encountered many students who believe that abroad programs are cost prohibitive.

“It’s a common misconception,” said Pulos. “We have designed our programs to be within the range of  most students’ finances.”

In some cases the costs of a program can result in being around the same price or cheaper than a normal semester. Pulos recommended that all students seek financial assistance.

The office holds regular funding sessions inviting presenters from other on-campus scholarship offices. Students are also eligible for grants, loans and scholarships open exclusively to students studying internationally. In the past, as much as $34,550 have been given away in scholarships.

Programs like USF in Florence are prime examples of the scholarship exclusivity offered. The Florence School of Record scholarship is a $1,000 award available to 35 of the programs committed students.

USF abroad offices are dedicated to making the programs affordable, but each student’s eligibility varies. Many students don’t qualify for grants or miss scholarships due to limited awards. One students experience could be entirely out of pocket while another may never know the stress of the financial side of spectrum.

Irene John, 20, was one of the fortunate students who had her expenses covered by the George W. Jenkins Scholarship. John traveled to Costa Rica last spring and has made plans to apply for another program.

“If I didn’t have my scholarship, I would still choose to study abroad,” John said. “The money is nothing in comparison to the experience you get to have.”

The response from students who have participated in abroad programs is conclusive in the money being worth the experience.

Cardenas happens to be one of the 35 students in her program who have received the scholarship award. Although it doesn’t calm her worries about the financial expenses she’s still dealing with, she is at ease knowing that the abroad offices do indeed offer assistance as advertised.

“Money plays a huge part, but it isn’t everything,” Cardenas said . “I would encourage everyone to apply regardless of their funds because like they say this is once in a lifetime.”