GW considers study abroad list additions

University officials said they are considering study abroad programs to add to the list of affiliated programs for the fall 2003 semester and will announce the new list at the end of the spring. The University announced early this semester that it would stop accepting credit from unaffiliated study abroad programs next fall because of academic concerns, despite a largely negative response from the student body.

A group of faculty members is currently meeting to recommend programs that should be added to the approved list of 60 University-recognized programs. Study abroad officials said GW plans to expand the list significantly for the fall semester.

“We’ve been talking to students for two years,” said Donna Scarboro, assistant vice president for special academic programs. “We’ve let them know that these changes would be instituted.”

In addition to the 60 programs, students can also currently choose from more than 5,000 programs that are not affiliated with GW. Starting in the fall, students will only be able to receive academic credit from unaffiliated programs through a petition process, according to an October Hatchet article.

A little more than half of the 621 students who studied abroad last year traveled on affiliated programs.

Office of Study Abroad Director Lynn Leonard wrote in an e-mail that “there is nothing new to report” about the list of expanded programs at this time, but that students will get more information about the policy “early next semester.”

Several students and organizations have recently voiced concerns because they said the policy limits students’ options.

The Student Association Senate unanimously passed legislation against the policy change at its meeting last Tuesday. After the Senate passes legislation, SA President Phil Robinson signs it and then Robinson, GW administrators and the sponsors of the resolution usually meet to discuss possible changes.

“I would hope that the unanimous support of my legislation would encourage the administration to at least revisit this policy,” said Sen. Kate Rocco (U-ESIA), who sponsored the resolution. ” … (But) Rice Hall and others on high will consider to do whatever is in their best financial interest.”

Rocco said she questions the University’s motives because some unaffiliated programs are cheaper than those affiliated with GW.

The majority of students studying with affiliated programs pay full GW tuition – $13,715 per semester.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said the difference between the price a student pays and the cost of the program to the University goes to “making sure the program we are running here is quality.”

He said the money goes toward “administrative costs” and improving the academic quality of the program.

GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg acknowledged that most University decisions factor in economics and said the study abroad change came as a result of financial and academic quality concerns.

Rocco said she wants officials to look at student concerns about the policy.

“If a resolution from the student-elected legislature is not evidence enough (of student opposition),” Rocco said she hopes administration will look at the 200-signature petition that is circulating around campus protesting the policy, as well as letters to the Hatchet.

Junior Julia Runte said she started the petition last month.

“It was extremely hard to find a study abroad program that fit me,” said Runte, who is looking to study abroad next year. “I am an anthropology major and an archaeology minor and wanted to take two classes relating to these subjects.”

But GW officials said the new policy will benefit students because the programs will be monitored more closely for academic strength and safety.

“Students will be able to participate in approved programs that are academically strong, student life will be safer and records and credits will transfer more smoothly than in the past,” Scarboro said.

-Rachel Gould and Mosheh Oinounou contributed
to this report.

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