The Collegian
Sunday, January 24, 2021

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UR Curious: Why is study abroad full tuition?

<p>Graphic by Katherine Gillenwater</p>

Graphic by Katherine Gillenwater

For some University of Richmond students, studying abroad is a transformative experience during their college career. However, the financial aspects can sometimes discourage students from taking this opportunity, since cultural immersion and travel often yield payment. A reader asked The Collegian to answer the question: “Why is study abroad full tuition, even though the tuition of some institutions abroad differs from UR's?”

The Office of International Education requires students attending UR-approved study abroad programs to pay tuition to UR as opposed to host institution, according to its website. This payment excludes room and board, according to the OIE website.

Ellen Sayles, associate dean of the OIE and director of education abroad, said the main reason for the decision to charge students full tuition when they are studying abroad was UR's need for a steady revenue stream to provide resources for students studying abroad and at UR. UR also relies on eight semesters of tuition from students to help pay for costs, such as professor salaries and study abroad advisers, she said.

“In order for us to provide services that don’t change [for domestic students] when you leave campus, we have to charge UR tuition,” Sayles said.

Sayles said that students were able to receive financial aid by paying UR tuition instead of tuition to the students' host institution. The U.S. federal government cannot give a student receiving federal financial aid more money than what the semester costs, Sayles said. 

A student who studied at an institution with a tuition cost fewer than the student's federal financial aid package would be ineligible for federal financial aid while attending that institution, Sayles said. Thus, UR's policy to charge full tuition while studying abroad allows UR students who are studying abroad to keep their need-based financial aid package. 

“I think the philosophy is to try to make [studying abroad] accessible across the spectrum of financial need and to try to make it as easily understandable financially as we can,” Sayles said.

Sayles also explained how the OIE can provide certain benefits to students studying abroad because those students pay UR tuition. The OIE uses funds from tuition payments to provide travel and health insurance for all students who study abroad, Sayles said. All students are also given a $1,000 travel allowance per semester abroad, and students with demonstrated need are given an additional $500, Sayles said. The OIE is able to provide this stipend because students pay UR tuition when they study abroad, she said.

According to its website, the OIE began providing students with the $1,000 travel allowance in fall 2019. This was an effort to make the opportunity to study abroad more financially accessible, according to the OIE website.

The difference between UR tuition and the tuition of study abroad programs or host institutions varies. For example, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad spring 2021 program in Copenhagen, Denmark, has a tuition cost of $20,495, according to the DIS website. In comparison, the spring 2021 tuition at St. Louis University in Madrid, one of UR’s partner institutions, is €10,880, or roughly $13,000, according to its website. However, a UR student who chooses to attend either program would have to pay a semester’s tuition at UR. The cost of tuition for a semester at UR is $28,430, according to the Office of Financial Aid website.

Alumna Paige Levine, UR ‘20, studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh in fall 2018, she said. She paid UR tuition that semester, which was considerably more than what she would have paid the University of Edinburgh, she said. Tuition at the University of Edinburgh was approximately £10,000 per semester in 2018, which roughly converts to $13,000, Levine said.

“When you look at the numbers it’s kind of like ‘Hmm, well is it really fair to pay that much more to study abroad than if I just went independent of Richmond?’” Levine said. “But it was also nice because I knew my credits would transfer.”

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Levine said her room and board costs at the University of Edinburgh were considerably cheaper than what they would have been at UR.

“At the time, I didn’t really think about [paying UR tuition while studying abroad]," Levine said. "Because I think it really is reasonably fair, maybe? Especially for people who are on financial aid or scholarship or whatever, then they are also able to study abroad; so I think that’s fair to put across the board for everyone paying the same.”

Newsletter director Eileen Pomeroy assisted in reporting.

Contact international editor Susanna Getis at susanna.getis@richmond.edu.

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