Students set to study abroad question an implemented fee
May 26, 2017
Since 2010, all Santa Clara students who study abroad have been required to pay a “program fee.” But this year, three rising juniors—Kimberly Grandi, Sarah Locklin and Jon Tuttle—decided to investigate exactly what the fee goes towards.
Grandi, planning to spend fall quarter 2017 in Ecuador, was under the impression that studying abroad would actually save her money. Her program, run by the University of Minnesota, costs $14,920 and includes tuition, housing, meals and health insurance. Grandi recently realized she would end up paying Santa Clara $5,798 more than her actual study abroad program costs.
This extra $5,798 comes from a combination of the $4,307 program fee that her “Level B” program includes and the $1,491 that Santa Clara adds onto her program cost in order to equal the tuition of one quarter at Santa Clara.
“I wanted to know what (the program fee) was and why we were being charged it, since my actual program cost was much cheaper and included in its cost most of the things SCU’s ‘program fee’ claimed to cover,” Grandi said.
The program fee each study abroad student pays ranges from $0-10,307 depending on which level (A through F) Santa Clara determines for their particular study abroad program. Some students say that the criteria for determining which range a study abroad program falls into is not clearly defined.
“The Santa Clara Board of Trustees determines the pricing of levels A-F and the Global Engagement Office monitors the programs and their costs and places the programs in the corresponding pricing levels,” said Director of Study Abroad Andrea Muilenburg.
Not only were the sophomore students confused about how each program level is determined, but also questioned where their program fee money was actually going.
The “Fees and Aid” section of Santa Clara’s study abroad website lists a number of services that the program fee payment covers, such as “administrative fees” and “eCampus maintenance.” In hopes of clarifying what their respective program fee covers, Grandi and fellow classmates Tuttle and Locklin reached out to members of the Study Abroad office.
Locklin was also looking for an explanation for the $4,307 program fee Santa Clara compelled her to pay.
“I knew about the fee when I was signing up for the study abroad program,” Locklin said. “But it was marketed as a fee that covered extra costs from my program.”
Locklin’s external study abroad program costs $15, 850, and includes tuition, housing, application fees and insurance.
The extra $4,307 in fees she will be paying to Santa Clara is advertised as covering many of the same expenses.
“Why should I still be subject to this fee if everything is already covered in my program?” Locklin said.
Muilenburg said that the program fee covers services such as the conversions of study abroad transcripts and grades of the student’s academic record.
In addition, Muilenburg said the fee also covers the Global Engagement Office’s Bronco Abroad Ambassador program for recently returned study abroad students.
“We currently have 60 Bronco Abroad Ambassadors,” Muilenburg said. “These students provide several hours a quarter of peer advising in the study abroad office.”
Although the program fee covers peer advising for students preparing for their study abroad experiences, neither Grandi, Locklin nor Tuttle used this service.
“In my meeting with Andrea Muilenberg and Hallie Bodey, they were very insistent that all of us were informed about this fee by Study Abroad Ambassadors at all the events we attended,” Tuttle said. “None of us recall hearing anything about this.”
One sophomore Bronco Abroad Ambassador said that although she attended a training session in fall of 2016, she has not done any advising sessions with students intending to go abroad and was not made aware of the extra fee the university charges students.
Muilenburg made it clear that the program fee is not something that the university tries to hide from students.
In fact, they mention the fee multiple times throughout the study abroad application process.
According Muilenburg, SCU Study Abroad publishes and shares the pricing level information with students prior to applying and after they have been nominated by the university to study abroad.
“I think the university just needs to be more clear about what it’s using our money for and where it’s going,” Grandi said.
Contact Kimi Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.