While study abroad departments across the country face criticism regarding business practices with program affiliates, CSU’s department claims to be kickback-free.
Concern has risen toward the companies and non-profit institutions that offer study abroad programs and the universities they deal with, according to an article in the New York Times. Commissions, cash bonuses and offers of expenses paid for traveling to abroad sites are among offers made by such groups, in exchange for exclusivity in a study abroad department.
Kara Bingham, director for study abroad, said this was far from the case at CSU’s department, which offers 29 CSU-sponsored programs at select universities, as well as 15 affiliates.
“Our choice in affiliate is not based whatsoever on any office contribution, and our policy is not to accept any agreement that would give contributions to the study abroad office,” Bingham said.
Bingham says that she has had to turn down offers of incentives from affiliates in the past, as accepting such offers would create “a sense of impropriety.”
Bingham acknowledged, however, that she and study abroad staff had utilized on-site travels offered by affiliates and other programs, trips that were either paid either in full or in part. Bingham said that such trips were crucial to the office’s development.
“I think it would be unprofessional not to have advisors go over,” Bingham said. “It’s a matter of university accountability to actually have an understanding of the institution that students are going to.”
“If a student asks me ‘Where in France would you suggest I go to study engineering?’ I can have a sense of what it is like on the ground, when I’ve seen the resident halls in France and I’ve a much better ability to explain to students what it’s like.”
According to Bingham, paid on-site travels are a “benefit” to students, in that advisors can better understand the foreign university a student may choose to attend. Benefits passed onto students, Bingham says, are the only kind of benefits the office takes from programs and affiliates: discount rates and available scholarship funds are generally available, depending on the affiliate or sponsored university.
However, there are cases where students stand to save money by enrolling directly into a university rather than go through CSU’s study abroad office.
In an e-mail from University of South Australia, Student Exchange Officer Natalie
Grant said direct enrollment as an international student costs around $6,250 for a semester of tuition, support services, on-arrival reception and orientation alone. In-state students stand to save by going through CSU’s study abroad office at a charge of $4,375 for the same services. Out-of-state students, however, face a cost of $9,765 when going through CSU’s study abroad office.
This case is similar to situations taking place at universities around the country, with some campuses charging higher rates to in-state students as well as out-of-state students. At some universities, students may only earn transferable credit by enrolling through the campus’ study abroad office.
But this is not the case at CSU, Bingham says. CSU will accept credit from any foreign university that has been recognized as an institute of higher education by its nation’s Ministry of Education.
Bingham said that it was understandable that some students preferred the safety and guidance offered by CSU’s study abroad office, while others would seek an experience without such advisement. Regardless of whether a student chooses to go through the office or not, advisors will contact a student to make sure the other available options are made known and that the student will be making a safe voyage. The office does not require a student to seek its services to take up schooling outside of the country.
“Our focus is that we want more students to study abroad,” Bingham said. “As long as they’re going abroad, and as long as they’re doing it safely, it doesn’t matter how they get there.”
Most students choose to go through the study abroad office to find a program that suits their needs. Carolyn Witaske, a junior speech communication major, spent a semester at sea through one of CSU’s affiliates. Witaske said her experience preparing for the trip with a study abroad advisor was useful.
“I met with my advisor who told me what classes would work and helped me out with paperwork,” Witaske said. “They helped make it happen.”