Practice Area Column

Cost-Benefit Analysis in the Education Abroad Office

The why and how of cost-benefit analyses, plus four steps to begin the process.
Photo: Shutterstock
Karen Doss Bowman

As international travel resumes, many education abroad offices are reopening shuttered programs or adding more virtual or hybrid options. Driving these decisions is the need to adapt programs and services to changing circumstances and student interests.

Given budget limitations, conducting cost-benefit analyses may help leaders determine the way forward—and also prove their office’s value on campus.

“[Doing a cost-benefit analysis] means taking a bit of time to reflect on … why we’re doing what we’re doing,” says Nick Gozik, Elon University dean of global education and assistant professor.

This means taking time to reassess each program’s goals and projected learning outcomes, Gozik says. “My concern in this period [of resuming mobility] is that we are too quick to simply get back to something that we know, and that we’re not actually taking advantage of the period to truly assess the needs of our students and how we want to move forward.”

As managers begin to establish priorities and take on new initiatives, analyzing the anticipated costs versus the projected benefits is a useful exercise to support the decision-making process.

What Is a Cost-Benefit Analysis?

Leaders in education abroad offices should begin with a basic understanding of cost-benefit analysis and why their office can benefit from this exercise. Simply put, the goal of a cost-benefit analysis is to determine if certain decisions or choices make sense from a business perspective. It involves comparing costs, projected or estimated, with the associated benefits and opportunities.

There are numerous reasons a cost-benefit analysis could

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