Study abroad list finalized

GW officials have finalized a list of 211 GW-affiliated options for next year, after deciding earlier this year to stop accepting credit from more than 5,000 unaffiliated programs. Students wishing to study abroad will be required to use one of the affiliated programs but are able to use a strict petition process to apply to unaffiliated programs.

Despite student complaints concerning limited options and finances, officials said they more than tripled the number of affiliated programs, up from 60, and will put most of students’ tuition money back into study abroad programs.

Prices for most affiliated programs mirror GW’s $13,885 tuition per semester. Several unaffiliated programs, including those through state-run universities, cost GW students significantly less.

When students currently study with unaffiliated programs, the money they pay goes directly to the program and students only pay GW a continuing enrollment fee of $150.

A little more than half of the 621 students who studied abroad last year traveled on unaffiliated programs, officials have said. If the same number of students pay the University for affiliated programs next year, GW could receive more than $4 million from students studying outside the country.

Administrators said the most important criteria in selecting affiliated programs were quality of the academic experience, cultural integration and security.

“Our primary concern is safety, and our second concern is the quality of the academics,” said Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for Academic Planning and Special Projects. “Study abroad has now become a huge business, and the quality of these experiences is all over the map.”

The new list allows students to choose from 108 programs in more than 45 countries. New, “less-traditional” locations include Kenya, New Zealand, Scotland and New Guinea.

GW plans to open new study centers in London and Australia and is considering one in China, said Lynn Leonard, director for the Office of Study Abroad. University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg recently went on a business trip to China.

Some of the additional funding is also allocated for faculty members to research the study abroad programs, Linebaugh said. He declined to release specific numbers.

“We think it’s very important that we take very close on-the-ground looks at the centers,” Linebaugh said.

Administrators said the difference between GW’s tuition cost and the price of the program will go back into improving study abroad.

Some money will be used to expand financial aid options, including setting up scholarships to encourage traveling to more diverse destinations. Faculty positions will also be added to study abroad.

“We would also like to develop more programming (through which) students can share their experiences abroad with all students,” Linebaugh said.

Administrators said some additional money may go into the University fund as well to help improve academics and student life, but Linebaugh declined to say how much.

While GW students have mirrored national statistics for top destinations, they are also likely to travel to less traditional places, Leonard said.

This semester’s top countries for GW students included Spain, Italy, Australia, England, France, China, Japan, Ireland, South Africa, Chile and the Netherlands. The most popular destinations nationally are England, Spain, France, Italy and Mexico.

“We’re pleased to see our students doing more interesting things in less popular destinations,” Leonard said.

Despite new limitations, students can petition to go on other academically acceptable programs.

Applications, available in the Office for Study Abroad, must include a written description of why a particular program meets a “specific academic, linguistic or cultural need that cannot be met by one of the GW affiliated programs,” Leonard said.

Students will also need to turn in a letter from a faculty member familiar with their academic needs.

The Study Abroad Advisory Group, comprised of study abroad staff members and faculty representatives from each undergraduate school, then reviews the applications. The group will evaluate the applications based upon students’ arguments.

“For example, if you want to study marine biology in Italy, and we have it available, we would say no,” Linebaugh said. “However, if you want to study marine biology in Tibet, and we don’t already offer it, you would probably be able to go.”

Leonard said more programs may be added for the spring 2004 semester, but next semester’s list is final.

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