U.S. education secretary encourages study abroad

U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley issued a call for more colleges and universities to promote study abroad programs earlier this month.

Riley also stressed the importance of more funding for international education programs in his request, according to the Associated Press.

Education has taken its place along with trade and economics, keeping the peace, the increasing mobility of the world’s people and other major issues on the agenda of international meetings, he said, according to the Associated Press. President Bill Clinton backed the secretary in his bid when he issued an executive memorandum directing federal agencies to promote study abroad along with other programs.

Currently about 500 GW undergraduate students study in 30 different countries across the globe. Nationally, 9 percent of U.S. college students go abroad every year. But some GW students’ aspirations for studying abroad may be curbed by their apprehensions about the cost of an international education.

Administrators in the GW’s Study Abroad and Financial Assistance offices said there are many options for financially strapped students seeking a global education.

The Office for Study Abroad has a directory of low-cost international programs called Academic Year Abroad, which is released by the Institute for International Education. The directory lists a range of programs, including programs cheaper than $5,000 and others that cost less than $10,000.

Debbie Gamponia, assistant director of the Office for Study Abroad, said more expensive study abroad options are typically found in places where travel costs and cost-of-living expenses are high. London, for instance, is one of the most popular destinations for GW students, but a plane ticket across the Atlantic can sometimes reach about $2,000.

For students whose dream locale doesn’t have a program in the under-$10,000 range, Gamponia said GW students have plenty of other options to help pay for international programs.

Federal financial aid, including Stafford and Perkins loans, can be carried over to any accredited study abroad program. University-granted money can be applied to all GW-affiliated programs. GW affiliates with more than 100 programs in 30 countries around the world, cost, on average, between $10,000 and $12,000 a semester.

All GW-affiliated (or sponsored) programs cost the same as GW tuition, except the Madrid Study Center in Spain, which costs less than GW tuition, Gamponia said.

Daniel Small, director of Student Financial Assistance, said it is easier for students to transfer their financial aid if they are participating in a GW-sponsored program.

Gamponia said many of the programs also offer options to help subsidize the cost of an education abroad.

We have a good success rate for scholarships from these programs, Gamponia said. She said GW students typically receive a fair amount of outside scholarships in addition to the scholarships presented by the respective programs.

Last year, the National Security Education Program, an organization that helps study abroad programs, granted 12 scholarships to GW students, the most in the country for that year, Gamponia said. Six of the eight GW students who applied received NSEP scholarships this year.

There’s a lot of scholarship money available, she said. It’s just a matter of finding it. She cited Kansai University in Osaka, Japan, where students receive full scholarships for their attendance.

But Small said some students who go to non-GW-affiliated programs do not always find adequate funding outside of federal loans, which can leave them struggling to pay for their overseas education for years to come.

We try to caution students that even though it’s a great experience, they have to pay (their debt) back at some time, he said.

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