By Eric Geller
The number of students interested in off-campus study programs took a slight hit as the College continues to implement and refine a new fee structure for the program. Two-hundred and forty-five sophomores applied to study abroad during the 2014-2015 school year.
That figure is just below the 269 students who applied to study abroad for 2013-2014, the last year before the new fee structure went into effect, and the 254 students who applied in the 2011-2012 year.
Marne Ausec, director of the Center for Global Engagement, which administers study abroad procedures, said she was encouraged by the “persistence rates,” or the number of students who did not drop out of the program after initially applying.
That percentage, she said, was more important than the raw number of applicants because of the College’s fluctuating class sizes. On average, Ausec said, about 52 percent of graduating seniors have studied off campus before they leave Kenyon.
Under the old payment system, students who went abroad would pay tuition directly to their off-campus study program, plus an $1,800 fee to Kenyon to cover various administrative costs. Beginning this year, the College switched to a home-school tuition system, in which students continue to pay their Kenyon tuition and the College uses that money to pay for the study abroad programs.
“Off-campus study is an expensive proposition for a college,” Ausec said. “You’re sending tuition dollars away.”
The College is helping students understand the new payment system, by providing them with an estimate of each program’s costs.
“There’s this perception that the new fee policy makes this unaffordable,” Ausec said. “The reality is not the case.”
Several sophomores applying to study off campus offered criticisms on the new fee structure.
Emily Tanji ’16, who plans to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science for a year, said she had “mixed feelings” about the new system.
“It is obscur[ing] what Kenyon does with the funds that are left after paying for the program, and this may financially burden students more than what is actually necessary,” Tanji said.
Emma Therrien ’16, who applied to spend a semester at Victoria University in New Zealand, also questioned where excess funds go.
“It seems unfair that students will be paying the included health and counseling fees and the student activities fees when we won’t be here to use those services,” said Therrien, whose tuition in New Zealand will cost approximately $4,000 less than a semester at Kenyon.
Ausec admitted the College had “gotten some pushback” about its new fee structure, saying, “nobody wants to pay anything more than what they think is fair.”
Student attitudes differed depending on how expensive their program was relative to an equivalent amount of time spent at Kenyon.
Megan Remillard ’16 applied to the Kenyon-Exeter Program in England, and found that she “would be getting more than expected for the cost of tuition with Kenyon-Exeter.”
The program provides a generous stipend for living and travel, perks she would not have received had she stayed at Kenyon for the year.
Ausec said her office received “lots of phone calls” from students trying to determine whether their finances could handle the new payment scheme. Ausec “had to create an entirely new system” to process the new study-abroad tuition payments.
“There were definitely things that we learned from,” Ausec said. “This semester has gone much smoother.”
Of the 245 people who applied to study off campus next year, 114 applied to go off campus during the fall semester alone, 91 in the spring, 26 for the full year and 14 for a split-year program.
The Danish Institute for Study Abroad, Kenyon-Exeter and Sweet Briar had the highest number of applicants with 24, 12 and 10 respectively.
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