The current recession has caused some AU students to reconsider their study abroad plans, but the AU Abroad office said it has not seen a significant decrease in study abroad applications.
AU Abroad director Sara Dumont said she did not have the final number of applications submitted for fall 2009 programs but said she did not think the requests for admissions she had seen indicated that the economy was affecting the number of applicants.
“In terms of application numbers, we’re not seeing any significant decline or definite patterns in where people are applying,” Dumont said.
Students are still applying for traditionally expensive programs in Western Europe, and the recession has actually helped students in some ways, such as by affecting the exchange rates, she said.
“Suddenly, [studying in] England has become a lot cheaper,” she said.
Many students said the economy was not an issue in their study abroad plans.
“Prague’s good,” said School of Communication senior Jacob Goodman, who studied in Prague, Czech Republic, last fall and said he chose the city because of his college plans rather than financial issues. “It fit into what I’m studying.”
Mathilde Cathelin, a freshman in SOC, said she was considering studying abroad in South America to save money but would probably still follow her original plan to study in London.
“It won’t help if we all stop doing what we want,” she said.
Lindsey Flick, a sophomore in the School of International Service, said she was changing her plans to study abroad in Egypt this summer. Instead, she said she will spend a semester in Egypt later and spend the summer working to earn money.
“I know it would be more difficult to get a loan this summer because of the economy,” Flick said.
Many students choose not to study abroad even under better economic conditions because they think it is too expensive, Dumont said. Many study abroad programs are similar in cost to a semester at AU.
“If students can afford to stay at AU, they can afford to study abroad,” she said, but added she was concerned that some students would have trouble paying to stay at AU.
To help inform students understand the costs of studying abroad, AU Abroad added a section to its Web site that compares the costs of spending a semester at AU to the costs of study abroad programs offered.
To further help students pay for study abroad, AU Abroad offers scholarships, Dumont said. These grants, as well as any financial aid a student already has at AU, can be applied towards a semester abroad.
The number of applications for the scholarships increased from 38 for the spring 2008 semester to 93 for the spring 2009 semester, while the number of scholarships granted increased from 20 to 39, according to AU Abroad Associate Director Mike Hayes.
Despite the increased number of scholarships, AU Abroad, which is not self-supportive but instead gets money from AU’s central budget, is in a solid financial state, Dumont said. Programs at other universities are also doing well.
“From what I know from who I talk to, everyone’s doing OK,” she said. “It’s the small, third-party programs that are struggling.”
AU Abroad has not seen any unusual issues caused by the recession, Dumont said.
“It’s always an issue,” she said. “We try very hard to keep the costs down without sacrificing the quality. None of us wants to offer students substandard programs.”