GW to help students adapt after going abroad

As GW gears up for a massive cash influx for its study abroad programs, officials are planning to bulk up programs to help students jump back into student organizations and social circles.

The Office of Study Abroad and Center for Student Engagement are looking to expand back-from-abroad support like the Focus on Fall Abroad Community program, Director of the Center for Student Engagement Tim Miller said this week.

FOFAC is a living and learning community that hosts events like internationally focused potlucks and events throughout the year. About 300 students participated this year.

The program only includes students participating in GW-sponsored programs and offers perks like guaranteed housing, a $1,500 tuition break and priority class registration. It was launched in 2005 to entice students to study abroad in the fall rather than the spring to even out the demand for on-campus housing.

Miller said he eventually hopes all students can take part in programming centered on their study abroad experiences.

Nearly 50 percent of students go abroad at GW, a figure that the University wants to increase as it stresses globalization. Miller said his staff began pairing up with the study abroad office this week to combat the feeling of disconnect some students have after they return to campus.

The study abroad office will also undergo changes to drive up participation, incorporating more research projects and internships to encourage non-traditional majors to go abroad, and push down program costs as part of the strategic plan.

The 10-year guiding document, crafted mostly by top administrators and Board of Trustees members, calls for saving $9 million by adding more exchange programs at foreign universities to scrap provider fees from affiliated programs. The office will also restructure the programs’ tiered pricing, which currently ranges from $550 to almost $7,000.

GW programs charge a $550 program fee, while programs run by outside organizations or colleges cost tack on thousands more on top of GW tuition. Expenses vary for each program, but typically include housing and meals.

Director of the Office of Study Abroad Rob Hallworth said plans to change the prices for programs are far off.

But students say the study abroad system is financially constricting, and they are looking for change more quickly.

Senior Analise Rivero said she would be glad to see GW trim down costs to make study abroad more affordable.

“I don’t pretend to know where [my money] was going,” Rivero, who studied in Australia last year, said. “I’m sure some of it does go toward a profit.”

Mark Dissen, a senior who studied in Hong Kong, agreed, and said he also thought the fees were not being properly used.

“I was under the impression that they paid the university that I went to and then kept the rest of the money” Dissen, who studied abroad as a junior, said.

But while GW will cut program costs, Hallworth said it will have to charge tuition in addition to program costs because the University still has to pay for annual costs.

“The University makes a commitment to provide a degree of high quality and when students leave campus for a semester or year, the University has many costs that continue,” Hallworth said, citing faculty salaries and recurring costs to fund areas such as the Office of Admissions and Gelman Library.

Breanna Browne, a sophomore who will spend the fall of her junior year in Rome, said she felt the charges were deserved, noting the support she has received from the study abroad office.

“It is my understanding that tuition goes towards paying tuition for the program and other transaction fees. The study abroad counselors have been very good about answering and advising all money-related questions,” she said.

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