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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Study abroad costs unfairly inflated

Published: November 15, 2013
Section: Editorials

Every semester, students planning to study abroad learn that the experience is too expensive to consider. Even students who thought they had their plans set in stone, who applied to a program through Brandeis and were accepted sometimes realize that they are effectively priced out, just months before their departure. Interestingly enough, most study abroad programs are significantly cheaper than an on-campus education. How do we account for the students at this University who learn late in the process that study abroad is unaffordable?

Part of the reason is the perverse economic structure which Brandeis has imposed upon the process. Study abroad programs typically cost between 10 and 15 thousand dollars a semester—a fraction of Brandeis tuition. Even programs in London, the most expensive locale, is several thousand dollars less than Brandeis tuition. Strangely, however, all Brandeis students are required to pay full tuition as if they were studying on campus even if study abroad is significantly cheaper.

In effect, Brandeis is holding study abroad credits hostage, ransoming them for the difference between the program cost and regular tuition fees. When presented with the facts of this scheme, the students’ responses indicate their disagreement. The university should not collect fees on a service it is not rendering. Students can transfer credits earned before enrollment with no additional fees. It simply does not compute.

One may argue that many other universities are guilty of the same financial engineering. That does not make it right. Further, other universities are not outrageously over priced compared to their competitors, and have tuition fees which are closer to those typically charged by Study Abroad programs.

Study abroad is expensive. Even without Brandeis’s outrageously inflated prices, the cost of airfare, insurance, food and lodging will often exceed regular tuition prices. And yet Brandeis insists on taking advantage of the financial leverage it has over undergraduates. Students know that it is wrong and they feel cheated.