Making study abroad more affordable

Cost remains a key barrier to studying abroad, especially for first-gen and low-income students, as some international study programs run thousands of dollars, depending on the host country, organization, or institution offering the program, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Data from a 2023 College Pulse survey finds that 54% of college students haven’t studied abroad but want to. Students at private universities were twice as likely to say they studied abroad than students at public universities. To make study abroad more accessible to all students, colleges and partnering institutions are establishing programs that remove obstacles known to complicate students’ international travel or discourage their participation.

Related: Programs target racial disparities in study abroad participation >

Meeting growing interest for study abroad

More students are eager to study abroad since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 82% of U.S. colleges and universities said they expected the number of students participating in study abroad programs to increase in the 2023-24 academic year compared to the previous year, according to data from the Institute of International Education’s (IIE’s) Spring 2023 Snapshot on International Educational Exchange. 

Related: International student enrollment soars, nears pre-pandemic levels >

Inside Higher Ed highlights three university programs that are working to meet the growing demand for international education.

In February 2021, Georgia State University (GSU) founded its Free Passport Program to boost post-pandemic study abroad engagement. The program covers the cost of students’ passport applications, as long as they are U.S. citizens applying for a passport for the first time through the GSU Study Abroad website. In October 2023, GSU announced it was one of six universities in Georgia to receive funding from Delta Airlines, which will cover passport costs for 50 students for the 2023-24 academic year at each of those institutions.  

The Arizona State University’s (ASU’s) Planning Scholarship awards up to $4,000 for first-generation students. Students also get to work with ASU’s Global Education Office to plan their study abroad experience in advance. To qualify, ASU students must be first-generation undergraduate college students, as reported through Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), be rising sophomores, hold a cumulative GPA of 2.0, and demonstrate financial need. To expand opportunities to more students, the Global Education Office has committed to awarding over $1 million in scholarships for eligible students in the 2023–24 academic year.

Related: Who is considered a ‘first-generation’ college student? >

To increase study abroad participation for students from underrepresented groups, the University of Memphis (UofM) is working to reduce financial barriers to international education. In 2017, UofM’s Center for International Education partnered with the TRIO Program and the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change to launch the Study Abroad Access Initiative (SAAI), which offers $2,000 scholarships to low-income students in TRIO or the Hooks Institute’s African-American Male Initiative (HAAMI).

The scholarships help cover the cost of a passport and round-trip international flights for a UofM study abroad program. Students who receive SAAI scholarships must meet with a study abroad advisor to discuss the passport application process and find round-trip flights for their international study programs. After completing the study abroad program, students must give a presentation at a TRIO or HAAMI meeting on the study abroad application and planning process and the most memorable parts of their experience.

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