Spring outpaces fall abroad

Student participation in spring-semester study-abroad programs continues to outpace fall, despite a five-year push by the Office for Study Abroad to make fall options more appealing.

The study abroad office failed to bridge the gap in participation for fall and spring programs, with 238 more students – nearly 42 percent more- opting to go abroad in the spring than the fall last year.

The Focus on Fall Abroad Community, better known as FOFAC, encourages students to study abroad in the fall by offering incentives, such as early spring class registration, priority housing in Amsterdam Hall and a $1,500 tuition cut for those who study abroad with GW programs or exchanges.

Data over the past three years show that spring study abroad continues to grow in popularity while fall figures fluctuate. The gap in students going abroad each semester was 1.5 times larger in 2010 than it was in 2007. While spring participation climbed, fall numbers fell from 421 in 2007 to 331 in 2009.

Associate Provost for International Programs Donna Scarboro attributes the widening disparity to the 2008 fall elections but could not explain the recent surge in spring applications.

The population divergence threatens the city-imposed restrictions on the University’s full-time student enrollment on the Foggy Bottom Campus – a figure that subtracts students studying abroad during a particular semester. Last fall, the total student head count on Foggy Bottom was 18,307, not far below the 20,000-student cap, and two years ago, the University was just 60 students under the full-time equivalent cap.

Scarboro said the University aims to keep the level of study abroad even across semesters due to administrative load.

“When the number of students off campus is the same in fall and spring, the workload for the study abroad office is more evenly distributed,” she said. “In addition, the housing stock at GW is better used, because spaces are available and are filled more evenly.”

Study-abroad rates have been steadily increasing over the last decade, hitting a peak in 2007, when 1,651 students left the University for part or all of the academic year. Europe remains the most popular destination for students, while countries in Latin America, South Africa and the Middle East have been gaining new interest.

The trend of students preferring to study abroad in the spring dates back decades, Scarboro said.

“Students may in part be acting out of a traditional assumption that spring is the time to do study abroad. They may also have an image that weather is better at that time, but by no means is this true all over the world,” she said.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.