To understand the depth of need for creative financing options for students studying abroad, look no further than a popular crowd-funding website. Among its listings, along with requests to help cover medical expenses and mortgages, are dozens upon dozens of fundraisers by college students seeking help paying for study abroad programs. “Three of my lifelong dreams rolled into one amazing opportunity: to study abroad, go to Chile, and visit the pueblo of Pablo Neruda,” one reads. “With hard work and the help of family and friends, I will embark to Ghana to care for children in need through school or after-school programs,” another fundraising pitch says.
Many would-be study abroad students of modest means struggle to pay for airfare, passports, program deposits, and other predeparture expenses that come due before financial aid or scholarship money arrives to help cover them. But university education abroad offices are stepping up with financial bridges, innovative work-study arrangements, and other alternative strategies to help students who couldn’t otherwise afford the life-changing programs.
Finding a Way
“Historically, study abroad has been seen as an elite opportunity, both in terms of high GPAs and costs,” says Margaret McCullers, associate director at the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University. “As we begin to look at who’s going and who’s not, a lot of colleges and universities have begun looking at financial barriers students face as they go abroad … and making sure that funding is going towards the students it might impact the most.”