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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Committee reviewing merit aid portability decision

Published: February 6, 2009
Section: News

Dean of Academic Services Kim Godsoe announced in an e-mail Friday that the decision to rescind merit aid portability for study abroad is being reviewed by a committee comprised of students, faculty and administration.

The review comes after students were outraged by a Jan. 16 e-mail that said that students would “not receive any form of merit aid…while on study abroad,” despite the fact that Brandeis Scholars, Presidential Scholars and recipients of the Dean’s Award were guaranteed that their scholarships “may be used for approved study abroad programs” in their acceptance letters.

The original decision to rescind merit aid portability was originally the solution to a $800,000 study abroad budget gap, Godsoe said at Sunday’s Student Union Senate meeting.

Godsoe attributed this gap to an increase in the number of students studying abroad from 41 percent last year to 45 percent this year. In addition, Godsoe said that the number of merit scholars studying abroad doubled between the academic years of 2006-2007 and 2007-2008.

She also tried to discredit the “myth that study abroad makes the university money.”

When a student studies abroad, Godsoe explains, they pay the university, who in turn pays the study abroad program. The idea that the university makes money from study abroad could have originated from the fact that most study abroad programs cost less money than Brandeis tuition, she said.

However, she explained that whatever money a non-merit scholar pays the university that does not go toward their study abroad program in turn helps pay for merit-scholars to study abroad.

“When we have students here on financial aid, we get less money into the university, so we just adjust what we use,” she said. “But when someone financial aid goes abroad, we have to make up those extra dollars to pay for your program.”

Godsoe said it had been projected that rescinding merit aid portability for study abroad would close the $800,000 gap within three years.

The Study Abroad Committee has been meeting the past week in order to discuss alternative solutions to the gap.

Other ideas include; limiting the number and type of programs approved by the university, raising the GPA requirements for students wishing to study abroad, limiting the number of students who participate by making the application process more selective and restricting the use of all financial aid for study abroad.

Godsoe explained that the decision of how to close the gap had to have been made between December and January—months where students are on winter break.

Additionally, she said that the departments of Academic and Financial Services worried that discussing the decision with students would have an adverse effect on application numbers. Applications to the university were due on Jan. 15.