A new four-tiered system will lower the cost of studying abroad for some GW students, albeit only by a few hundred dollars for most.
While students will still pay GW tuition if they choose to study abroad during the academic year, the Office of Study Abroad announced last week that the University will now charge less in some cases for room and board fees, depending on the cost of living in the country where the student is traveling.
In the past, students paid a flat fee for room and board in their country of choice, no matter what the cost of living in that specific region was. Thus, students studying in Africa, where the cost of living is low, paid the same room and board fees as students studying in Europe, where the cost of living is high.
Most students, however, will still pay around the same price to live abroad as in the past, said Robert Hallworth, director of GW’s Office of Study Abroad.
“The four-tier system was developed to take other factors into consideration (overall cost, in-country living expenses, and the like) so that fees more closely reflect relative costs to the [student’s country of choice],” Hallworth said in an e-mail.
Tier four schools have the cheapest study abroad fee at $400, tier three schools cost $4,900, tier two cost $5,500, and tier one cost $6,000.
“While there are no geographic certainties, many programs in developing nations are in Tier 3 and those in more costly areas (UK and Western Europe) are in Tier 1,” Hallworth said. “The vast majority of programs fall into Tier 2, which typically will not have significant cost change. Under the previous system fees ranged from $400 to $6,393.”
In addition to the four-tier system, Hallworth said $100,000 in additional financial aid will be utilized for students studying abroad. Divided evenly between the average 450 students who study abroad a semester, however, each student would only receive a little more than $200 in aid.
Despite the fact that many GW students study abroad during their time at the University, the financial aspect of studying abroad has been a hot topic for students over the past few years. Last year, during a town hall meeting hosted by University President Steven Knapp, students questioned the study abroad policies and demanded changes.
Other universities, like Wheaton College – a small Massachusetts liberal arts school with the same policy of charging tuition costs as GW – have been sued over their study abroad financial policies for being “unfair and deceptive.”
Because of the financial policy for studying abroad, some students have chosen to take a year off from the University and study abroad on their own terms.
Juniors Adam Lovell and Kathleen Fallon are currently studying abroad at Damascus University in Syria and said they do not regret their decision to go around GW’s study abroad office.
Fallon said she will not get credits for her time abroad. She said, however, by coming to GW with Advanced Placement credits and taking a few summer courses, she will be able to graduate on time with her friends.
“My friend Myles and I were planning on petitioning Damascus University through the study abroad office, but after a lot of planning, we realized that we would save about $23,000 just taking a semester off and going by ourselves,” Fallon said in an e-mail.
Lovell said studying abroad without the ties to GW also gives him more freedom in his country of choice.
“I do not regret avoiding the Study Abroad Office,” Lovell said in an e-mail. “I was able to plan this trip entirely without their help, and had none of their deadlines to [comply] with. I simply had to meet with my advisor to finalize my leave of absence. More over by taking a leave of absence you are entirely free to travel where you like, behave as you will, and only be held accountable to the laws of the country in which you reside, which is very much not true of the… programs in the Middle East.”