This is a Web Extra for the March/April 2006 issue of International Educator.
It complements the article: Financial Aid and Funding Education Abroad.
- Federal and State Regulations Allow Aid to Be Used Only on This Campus.
Federal law says that students cannot be denied aid just because they study abroad, as long as the course work is approved for academic credit by the home institution. Federal regulations provide for the use of agreements to contract out a portion of the student’s education, thus allowing students to study abroad or even to study at a different U.S. institution
- Our Campus is Tuition-Driven, So Aid Must Be Used to Support This University, Not Some Campus in Another Country.
This argument is improper with respect to federal aid. Congress made Title IV federal aid available to help individual students pay for their educations, not to support colleges and universities.
- We Don’t Have Enough Aid for Students Who Are on Campus, Let Alone for Those Who Study Abroad.
An important principle of federal and most state aid is that all eligible students must have equal access to that aid. To deny aid to students engaged in a preapproved educational activity would violate the principle of equal access.
- It’s Too Hard to Track Students Who Leave Campus; Giving Them Aid Would Cause Problems During an Audit.
U.S. Department of Education audits are conducted at all institutions that award federal aid. If too many errors are found, the government can restrict or even refuse further aid appropriations. Denying aid for study abroad programs if the credit is preapproved by the institution is against federal law. Special arrangements must be made to properly track students and their aid. Education abroad professionals should ask the financial aid office what special information is needed to process aid for study abroad students and should keep accurate records. Often, all that is needed are simple things like program start and end dates, the estimated cost of education, and whether there is a written agreement with the program provider.
- It Takes Too Much Extra Work to Handle Study Abroad Students.
A lot of extra work is often involved. But extra work is often required for other groups of students, too. This is not a valid reason to deny access to aid. It is not in an institution’s financial or academic interest to deny aid for study abroad. Students and parents are increasingly aware that federal aid can be used for study abroad, and are far less likely to accept excuses. As the study abroad administrator, education abroad professionals are responsible for helping their institutions understand this. Education abroad professionals need to educate financial aid administrators and help develop adequate standards and controls to ensure that aid is properly awarded, disbursed, and tracked. Education abroad administrators can and must be involved in this process, both to help students and to help financial aid officers fulfill their legal obligations.