Studying abroad has become an increasingly popular option for American college students, for somewhat obvious reasons: It offers students a nice change of scenery and a chance to travel, meet new people, experience different cultures and, depending where they go, maybe even work a little less hard. The problem is that it can come at a steep price.
The issue isn’t that students are being charged more to study abroad for a semester or two, or that living expenses are higher. It’s that in cases where their new school’s costs are lower — such as those in countries with lower living costs or heavily subsidized education costs — students aren’t being given a break. Rather than pass the savings along to the students, their home colleges and the companies or organizations that specialize in setting up these study-abroad programs for them are reaping the gain. That isn’t right.
The colleges aren’t even required to disclose how much they, or the companies they engage to set up such programs, might be profiteering, a recent Times Union report indicated. Likewise, they don’t have to say what, if any, incentives might be steering the choices the colleges are making.
In the past, schools got in trouble for receiving kickbacks of this sort for steering students to selected loan providers — in fact, it was then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who came down on them. Now Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is reportedly raising the same issue regarding these overseas study programs, and the Legislature is getting involved. Bills in both the Senate and Assembly would require colleges to at least disclose how they benefit financially when they send students abroad.
That’s an obvious place to start, but it might be fairer to ask why a college is allowed to make any money off students for a popular program like this. The savings should be passed on to them.