By Madeleine Thompson
The College is preparing to change the way students pay to study off campus, adopting a policy, approved by the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) and the Board of Trustees, that has become commonplace at other institutions. Under the new policy, students will pay their normal tuition (including room and board) from which the College will then pay the program host. Kenyon will retain the rest of the funds, but administrators say it is likely that most of the revenue will go towards costs associated with the new model.
The class of 2015 will be the first affected by this change. Through this new policy widely known as the Home School Tuition model it could become slightly more expensive for some students to study abroad than under Kenyons current plan.
At present, students pay a flat $1,800 retainer fee instead of $27,380 for one semester at Kenyon or $54,760 for a year and then pay their host organizations separately. For some students, this means spending a semester or year abroad will be less expensive than spending the equivalent amount of time in Gambier.
Under the current policy, the College proportionally adjusted financial aid based on the cost of the off-campus program. Now, however, students will receive their entire financial aid package because they are paying Kenyon tuition. Provost and Professor of International Studies and Political Science Nayef Samhat said, The idea is that no student loses the opportunity to study abroad as a result of the shift to this particular model.
One of the things that senior staff looked at was how not to disadvantage students on financial aid, Director of Financial Aid Craig Daugherty said. Their financial aid will be adjusted so their out-of-pocket expenditures parallel what they would pay if they were on campus.
And unlike many peer institutions that already employ the Home School Tuition model, Kenyon will transfer all of a students grants and loans to the program of his or her choice.
Though the change comes at a time when the College is under pressure to decrease costs and raise revenue, Samhat said the new policy is an effort to keep up with peer institutions, and not an effortto make money.
[The policy] is becoming the standard among institutions of higher education, he said. I think more than half of our [Great Lakes Colleges Association] institutions are moving in this direction. Its fairly common.
This system is in place at both Oberlin College and Carleton College. Denison University uses a model similar to Kenyons current one, requiring students who study abroad to pay a $660 fee for one semester and $760 for the year. Denison did consider using the Home School Tuition model, but ultimately rejected the idea, according to Andrew Law, the Universitys director of off-campus study.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well we were actually able to continue to meet our educational goals while moving the portfolio around to address the cost issue, Law said. That having worked, theres not a lot of reason for us to move away from the model we currently have.
Where it has been used, the Home School Tuition model has not been universally well received.
Wheaton College in Massachusetts, which follows the Home School Tuition policy, fielded a lawsuit in 2008 from a father who felt it was unfair to pay full tuition when it was more expensive than the cost of his daughters study abroad program. The suit was withdrawn.
While administrators declined to provide an estimate for the amount of surplus revenue under the new model, Marne Ausec, director of the CGE said the possibility of retaining leftover capital might have motivated the change. I think that when colleges look at restructuring their financial models, thats one thing that they take into account, she said.
Nugent agreed, adding that most of the additional revenue would go towards funding costs linked to the new model which includes the hiring of an additional CGE staff member to handle billing. Yes, [the Home School Tuition model] will generate some revenue. Most of that will go into the program itself, Nugent said. On the one hand, I do often proclaim that the College is in great shape, and it is. … But on the other hand, youre always planning for the long term future and health of the College. We have good resources, but we have fairly limited resources, and we always have to be thinking about whats going to really fund the College for another 100 years.
Ausec expects there will be a drop in applications to go abroad, at least in the period immediately following the introduction of the new policy. Based on what has happened at other schools, my guess is that at first were going to see a dip because of what people perceive the fee change to mean, Ausec said. What other schools have noticed is that theres a dip and then it goes back to normal. My guess is that we will see more students choose to stay at Kenyon and perhaps use the summer as their time abroad. While we look for real quality programs, the reality is that if you want the Kenyon rigor and the Kenyon experience, its probably best to stay at Kenyon.
Stephen Volz, director of the program in international studies and associate professor of history, does not anticipate the change will have an effect on students interested in the international studies program, which is the only major that requires students to study off campus.
My sense is that most parents who are able to pay the full amount dont enroll students at Kenyon in anticipation of saving a bunch of money during that one semester, Volz said. Now, if the money is going through Kenyon, then Kenyon bears a greater responsibility for ensuring the success of those programs and the academic rigor and quality of them.
Ausec hopes this policy is only the first of many changes to the way Kenyon handles off-campus study. Overall, the CGE plans to better integrate itself into the Colleges curriculum. Kenyons switch to the Home School Tuition model is a small part of that larger initiative.
For instance, Ausec hopes to create pre- and post-travel classes, which could start as early as this spring, that would both prepare students for abroad study and help them process their experience upon returning to campus. Were really trying to go global, Ausec said. Were working with the faculty on some curricular initiatives to link study abroad into work done back here. I want [students] to really be able to articulate what theyve done.
Eventually, the objective is to make global awareness a priority on campus, emphasizing a desire to seamlessly incorporate off-campus study into students experience on campus, according to Samhat.
The goal is to make [off-campus study] a valuable, substantive and meaningful experience in terms of doing things and applying knowledge. It goes hand-in-hand with what I think has been an increasing sense of global perspective in our curriculum, Samhat said. Whatever is done is done to strengthen the mission of the institution, and thereby the institution.
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