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Friday, January 28, 2022

Changes to study abroad financial aid policy possible in near future – The Lafayette

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Financial aid for study abroad trips is currently an issue at the forefront of serious debate and thought, as staff on a subcommittee of the Off-Campus Study Committee discuss ways forward and amend current policies.

A recent policy from the Financial Aid Office stated that students who have received assistance for any type of trip abroad in the past will not be eligible to receive assistance for temporary trips, such as a winter trip to Senegal through the Department of Africana Studies.

According to Forrest Stewart, assistant vice president for financial aid, a subcommittee met once to discuss how to change this policy. The meeting was scheduled for a few weeks before an article in Lafayette Detailed policy and student concerns about accessibility.

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“We only had one meeting, but this meeting produced some ideas for data collection that will help us move in the right direction,” he said.

While the committee is currently working on producing information and figures only, Stewart said there are “a unified commitment to address the issues.”

Studying abroad is an expensive endeavor that many students will not be able to afford without the support of their institution.

The funding issue is not limited to Lafayette – many colleges have had problems balancing their budgets to fully include the cost of studying abroad. Williams College, a liberal arts school in Massachusetts, saw issues With students receiving deposits for indirect costs that consist of daily expenses not covered by the institution, such as laundry.

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Similar to Lafayette Temporary Tours, nearby Lehigh University hosts programs Not covered Through federal or institutional financial aid for students.

during the 2018-19 Academic year, 1.8% of all American students at institutions of higher education studied abroad, compared to 60-65% of Lafayette students during 2017-18 school year. This cannot be fully attributed to the inclusiveness of financial aid, given that some students have the ability to fund their own travels. However, it does reveal a larger pattern of Lafayette students’ desire and leadership to study abroad.

Stewart believes that realistically, there could be increased financial opportunities for students in the near future.

“I think we’re going to see an increase in financial opportunities for students,” Stewart said. “This needs to be implemented carefully to stay within the financial assistance budget approved by the Board of Directors, but we can make progress.”

Finding a room within budget to fund all the expenses necessary for a student’s college experience can be a challenging task due to the difficulties in distributing available funds. In order to make more funds available to help with temporary trips, the funds will have to be withdrawn from elsewhere, given the lack of available unused funds.

The subcommittee considers the matter at hand to be “a very important and timely issue,” according to Stewart. He noted that financial aid often addresses the cost of a student’s attendance at an institution, but prompts a shift in perspective toward the cost of experience. These experiences will include students’ ability to engage in a wide range of activities that allow them to reach their full potential.

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“Financial aid is one way to help students experience all that Lafayette has to offer. It’s not the only way, but it’s an important one,” Stewart said.

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