Study Abroad Acceptance Will Likely Decrease Next Spring

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Author: Jessica Gelzer

After analysis of the budget for the upcoming school year and the generally increased interest in Study Abroad, the International Programs Office (IPO) has announced they will most likely be accepting fewer students for the Spring 2010 semester.

For Fall 2009, 90% of applicants were accepted, but IPO estimates that only 70% of applicants for spring will have the opportunity. While International Programs was one of the few departments to receive an increase in their budget, it may not be enough for the number of students expected to apply. For Fall 2009, applications increased 25%, in addition to the fact that spring enrollment tends to be 10-20% higher than in the fall.

There has been a general increasing trend at Occidental for study abroad. In 1995, only 34 students studied abroad, where other comparable colleges were sending 50% of their students. Current director of IPO Susan M. Popko said, “It’s a gradual process for Oxy. We came late.” Oxy has finally caught up in the last two years, doubling its participation and currently sending about 50% of each year’s junior student class. Popko attributes some of this increase to more majors, like the sciences, math and music, encouraging their students to study abroad.

Students pay the same tuition they would with on-campus study, so it may be confusing as to why it is a burden on the college to send students off-campus. When students pay their tuition and are on-campus, that money gets absorbed into the college, which pays for staff and facilities. When students are off-campus, the school is writing a check to another institution and thus loses the money. This proves to be an even greater loss when paying for students who have financial aid. However, the program cannot discriminate acceptance to programs based on an ability to pay. Popko said, “The big picture is that we allow financial aid for students. I think it is essential to maintain what’s equitable.”

The announcement about possibly accepting less applicants is being disseminated to students with an announcement on the International Programs website and flyers in their office. However, the impact may not hit students until they meet with their advisors and plan for their future at Oxy.

Others are not as worried and will apply just as they were planning to begin with. Casey Ogden, (sophomore), an Urban and Environmental Policy Major, is planning to study abroad Spring of 2010. She said, “I will definitely put a lot of effort into the application, not that I wouldn’t already, but knowing that I have less of a chance will make me try harder.”

The International Programs stresses the competitiveness of Off-Campus Study in our current financial situation. In consideration, the International Programs Office has different suggestions and options. To greater ensure acceptance into your program of choice, the first step is to make sure all the prerequisites are taken care of, the most up-to-date of which are posted on the IPO website. Additionally, the more background one has in their country of choice, the stronger the application is. In choosing a place to study, it is encouraged to find a program that has an academic fit as opposed to a fun place to travel. This desire to connect to the culture will really come through on applications.

Popko said, “We don’t view it as traveling, we view it as living in a new environment, engaging.” To fully reflect on engagement with culture, it is recommended to go to the IPO events that are offered and attend advising hours to talk with IPO staff. The IPO also supports considering other avenues of study abroad like the Richter Scholarship, the Anderson Grant for politics majors, the Young fund for DWA majors and opportunities available at Undergraduate Research Center.

It’s not just difficult financial times for the school, but for students as well, which may influence their decision to study abroad. For this upcoming Fall, a record 8 students withdrew for various reasons, but IPO speculates that it could be related to economic situations.

However, there is aid available to those who need it. Students on financial aid can get a grant for airfare along with the normal costs covered like tuition, housing, meals, local transportation and visa fees over 100 dollars. This aid mainly concerns daily costs of living. Since individual spending habits differ, Popko proposes that students keep track of their money while at home and then double that amount to predict what they will spend abroad.

IPO Open Advising Hours are Monday and Tuesdays 10 a.m. to noon and Wednesdays and Thursdays 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Upcoming events include Study in Spain! on Thursday March 26, 11:30-12:30 in Johnson 308. Pizza with IPO is on Tuesday March 31, 12-1, Weingart 101.

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