If a student studies abroad in Munich during their junior year, they pay standard Kenyon tuition — $47,220 — for a program with tuition costs of $20,600. The difference of $26,620 is pocketed by Kenyon.
Under the home tuition model, adopted by Kenyon in 2012 and put into effect for the fall 2013 semester, the College charges students who study off campus full Kenyon tuition, adjusted to their financial aid package.
For students like Sarah Oleisky ’16, who studied abroad last year in Seville, Spain, the fact that they must pay Kenyon tuition to study abroad makes little sense.
“I think that’s the main problem that people have with the whole thing,” Oleisky said. “Why pay Kenyon tuition if you’re not utilizing any of the resources on campus?”
Previously, students paid their individual program’s price — with financial aid adjusted based on program fees — and a $1,800 retainer fee to cover certain program costs.
Though this new system increased the College’s revenue from students going abroad, according to Todd Burson, vice president for finance, Kenyon has not been profiting from the change. The new model is designed to allow the Center for Global Engagement (CGE), which organizes off-campus study (OCS), to break even financially, which it did in the 2013-2014 academic year, the first year of the system’s implementation. Previously the expenses incurred by the CGE and OCS programs were not fully covered by the retainer fee, but now the difference between program costs and Kenyon tuition covers the operating costs of the OCS program.
In the coming weeks, the College will analyze the CGE’s budget for its second year on the home tuition model, but Burson expects the second year to reflect a breakeven budget as well. Long-term, Burson said the College does not expect the difference between tuition and program costs to be a source of revenue, but now the extra revenue will pay for the OCS program. He explained that the College wanted the OCS program to break even so that its losses would not sap money from other College programs.
Burson declined to release the OCS budget, citing a College policy against releasing departmental budgets.
When Kenyon adopted the new model in 2012, Marne Ausec, director of the CGE, said the home tuition model had already been put in place by many of the 13 colleges in the Great Lakes Colleges Association, of which Kenyon is a member. President Sean Decatur was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin College when Oberlin transitioned to the same model, and said he believes the model to be fair.
Burson and Ausec explained that since Kenyon has traditionally allowed students to use financial aid dollars to pay their off-campus-program tuition costs, which not every school does, this could have contributed to financial loss for sending students abroad.
When Rachel Mitchell ’16, a Collegian staff writer, began to make her study abroad plans, she did not anticipate paying several thousand dollars more than the cost of her desired programs.
Loren Wright, Mitchell’s mother, expressed her concern about the home tuition model to Ausec and Decatur, whom she said were both responsive. Wright sent a letter to Decatur, who then called her to discuss the policy.
Wright said that for Rachel, who studied at the Newberry Library in Chicago in the fall of 2014 and in Copenhagen the following spring, the fees Kenyon charged were about $12,000 more than what Mitchell’s programs charged for the first semester and nearly $5,000 more than for the second semester.
Despite the discrepancy in price for Mitchell’s family, such issues have not been problematic for all Kenyon students who have studied abroad. For those students whose financial aid package significantly lowers their normal tuition costs, the difference between that fee and their off-campus program price is sometimes greatly reduced.
Oleisky said that, with her financial aid package, she paid less for her semester abroad than she pays for a semester at Kenyon. This was in part because of her financial aid but also because the CGE granted her “miscellaneous credit,” which is awarded on a student-by-student basis to cover additional expenses, according to Ausec.
“I think if I knew where the money [to Kenyon] was going, I would feel more reassured,” Kyla McLaughlin ’17, who also studied abroad last semester in Seville, said. “I didn’t think my parents would say no to me studying abroad, but I think that they would question where the money was going, just like I am.”
After implementing the change, the CGE received a number of calls from parents asking about the change, according to Ausec. She said when she explains why Kenyon the home tuition model, most parents are understanding. The model, Ausec said, puts the focus for choosing a program on academic quality, not price. Some schools don’t let financial aid dollars pay program fees and others will limit the number of students who can go abroad or attend certain programs due to high fees. “When we accept you [to Kenyon], we make a commitment to you financially,” Ausec said.
Kenyon policy states that program costs above Kenyon tuition will be covered by the student. For the most expensive abroad programs, including at Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford University, this means paying the difference in this case between Oxford’s $39,375 in tuition and room (not counting board) and Kenyon’s $29,590 in tuition, room and board. However, a semester at Oxford earns a student three credits through two terms at Oxford as opposed to the standard two credits a student would earn at Kenyon in that time. Thus, the student pays $13,125 per credit at Oxford, as opposed to $14,795 per credit at Kenyon.
The CGE has not had a decrease in applicants, and Ausec has not heard of any students opting not to go abroad due to the new financial model.
David Greising, whose daughter Greta, a senior, also studied abroad last year in Seville, said it might be more fair for Kenyon to charge a fee for administrative costs as opposed to the home tuition model. According to his daughter, her program cost was around $15,000, which was less than what Kenyon charged her to study abroad.
“I like the idea that they’re encouraging students to study abroad, David Greising said, “but this new policy is, I think, ill-considered.”
–Lauren Eller and Nathaniel Shahan