Models for Program Financing

December 04, 2009

This section presents a variety of models and tools that institutions can offer to help students fund study abroad programs, including federal and state aid, scholarships and grants, fundraising, and partnerships.

Cost of Study Abroad

January, 2008

In the wake of the release of NAFSA's recommendations on managing study abroad programs, NASFAA published NASFAA Provides Guidance on Cost of Attendance for Study Abroad expanding on information they previously provided for Title IV financial aid recipients. Among the criteria listed in NAFSA's IMSA Report are two categories that relate directly to the administration of Title IV programs: adequate resources, and clarity and accountability.

Economic analysis of the cost of study abroad

The Economics of Study Abroad by William Cressy and Nancy Stubbs in the recently published A History of U.S. Study Abroad: 1965-Present, William W. Hoffa and Stephen C. DePaul (Eds.). A Special Publication of Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad. pp. 253-294

Funding Education Abroad

As education abroad professionals learn about the various regulations for federal and state financial aid, the number of scholarships and grants potentially available to study abroad students, and how funding for education abroad works on their own campuses, the next logical step is consideration of new ways or model initiatives for funding.

One unique model is the approach taken by the University of Texas-Austin (UT-Austin), where all students enrolling at UT Austin pay a mandatory fee of $4 per semester or summer session to fund a financial assistance program for eligible students participating in international study or student exchange.

Student Fee Scholarship - Case Study: Texas' International Education Fee

Students from the University of Texas-Austin rallied together in 1987 to create support on campus for a $1 student fee to support scholarships for students participating in international student exchange or study programs. In 1989, the Texas Legislature authorized the scholarship to apply to all state institutions of higher education who pass local referendums. Ten years later (1999) students at The University of North Texas rallied together to convince the Texas Legislature to raise the fee from $1 to $4 per student per semester. UT-Austin was then able to raise the local fee to $3 per student. Other campuses across the state have been successful in raising the fee to the maximum of $4 per student.

To our colleagues around the nation we offer this advice:

  • Anything is possible, and it only takes a few (driven) students to make it happen.
  • This initiative did not consume our offices' staff.
  • This is proof positive that grassroots projects can be accomplished.
  • Each year UT-Austin awards over $300,000 in scholarships to students participating in international student exchange or study programs. This is cash in hand that domestic students can use to pay program deposits, or buy their passport or plane ticket.
  • Informational packets about this scholarship can be obtained from Heather Thompson in the Study Abroad Office at UT-Austin.

A number of model initiatives for internationalizing the campus are featured by the American Council on Education (ACE). Many of these initiatives use a combination of funding sources to underwrite the initiatives, and reading through some of the strategies can give you ideas that might work on your own campus.

Campus Internationalization: Funding Education Abroad

The cost of education abroad, either real or imagined, is one of the reasons students cite for not going abroad (only 1 percent of U.S. undergraduates study abroad, according to the 2009 Open Doors report on international educational exchange. The key to making study abroad a viable alternative for students is to have ready access to a variety of tools for funding international education (federal and state aid, scholarships and grants, fundraising, and finding affordable programs).

The campus ethos of supporting students who are planning a study abroad experience (through partnership between offices that handle international education, financial aid, business affairs, registration, and enrollment) is also essential in creating an environment that leads students to seriously consider study abroad as a component of their undergraduate education.

The other cost of campus internationalization is the institutional investment required. Institutions must weigh institutional value against institutional investment in developing education abroad experiences to suit that particular institution.

A chart created by David Keitges, Director of International Education at Miami University (originally found in NAFSA's publication Abroad by Design), summarizes advantages and disadvantages and comparative costs for various models.

There are several excellent sources of information on campus internationalization. The American Council on Education has many resources available. A short search under International Initiatives takes you to sources of funding for both individual student study and campus internationalization.

NAFSA, through its program for the Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization, has identified a number of institutions that have found a variety of ways to support funding for education abroad.

Many institutions around the world have formal exchange agreements with institutions in other countries. A student pays tuition (and sometimes room and board) to the home institution and exchanges places with a student at an exchange partner who has paid similar costs there.

The International Student Exchange Program coordinates a network of 265 schools in 38 countries for member institutions.

Many U.S. institutions have developed a combination of partnerships to make study abroad affordable, and have Web sites that show students how to balance the equation between finances and cost of programs.

Additional Information

Financial Aid Basics for Advising Undergrad Study Abroad Students

Financing study abroad has become one of the most important and time-consuming subjects on which international educators must advise their students. The evolution of financial aid advising for undergraduate study abroad can be partially attributed to greater accessibility to information via the Internet. Some institutions have created Web sites dedicated to financial aid issues for study abroad students. In addition, a broader variety of scholarship opportunities exist for underrepresented student populations. It also appears that many scholarship opportunities are emerging from private companies (as opposed to government sources).

View the Resource

Growth in Study Abroad Capacity at the University of Georgia

View a PowerPoint presentation prepared by Judith Shaw and Kasee Laster for the 2008 NASULGC conference that presents the entrepreneurial financial and administrative model that led to a three-fold increase in the number of University of Georgia students studying abroad between 1996 and 2008.

View the resource (1.7mb PPT)

Growth in Study Abroad Capacity at the University of Florida

This PowerPoint presentation, originally prepared for the 2009 NASULGC Annual Meeting, outlines the advantages of the University of Florida’s self-funded, break-even budget model for funding the expansion of study abroad.

View the resource (145kb PPT)

Latin America Study Abroad Survey

This 2009 survey of SECUSS-L and AIEA listserv members conducted by Wendy Williamson, director of study abroad at Eastern Illinois University, provides data about study abroad participation in Latin America, addressing where growth is occurring, what is contributing to this growth, and what study abroad options and programs international education professionals would like to see emerge.

View the resource (195 kb Adobe PDF)