While nearly 45 percent of juniors study abroad each year, students have often expressed frustration over the University’s policy of “Wesleyan tuition for Wesleyan credit,” or home-school tuition. As the nation’s financial crisis deepens, however, this policy—which requires that students pay University tuition while studying abroad, regardless of the actual cost of the program—is undergoing even greater scrutiny.
Without the cost of residential fees, University tuition totals $19,317 per semester. While some programs have a comparative cost, others, such as the program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel cost as little as $8,530 per semester including housing. Under Wesleyan policy, the program costs $20,467.
For programs that charge a single comprehensive fee, including tuition, room and board, and transportation costs, students are charged a home-school tuition, in addition to 25 percent of the program’s comprehensive fee. This 25 percent charge accounts for the percentage of the University’s semester bill that would include room and board costs.
If a program lists tuition separately from room and board costs, then the University bills students for home-school tuition and the cost of room and board as designated by the specific program. The majority of programs are listed in this format.
Many students, however, feel that they should only be required to pay the cost of the program that they are actually attending. In spring 2008, Ariana Snowdon ’10 studied in India through the School for International Training (SIT) Tibetan and Himalayan Studies Program. The program costs $17,099, including room and board. With University policy, however, the cost rose to $21,886.
Although she enjoyed the experience, she was frustrated that she had to pay Wesleyan tuition while attending a less expensive program.
“[There was this] fleeting momentary delight of ‘Oh, it’s going to be so much cheaper,’” Snowdon said. “Then I realized I had to pay Wesleyan tuition. I think it’s something that deters a lot of people.”
In an interview with The Argus, President Roth also emphasized the benefit of the home-school tuition policy as a vehicle for financial aid as well as the importance of off-campus study in general for students.
“We try to have a study abroad program that has an important financial aid component,” Roth said. “I think all students benefit from some kind of off-campus learning.”
The home-school tuition policy allows the University to give all interested students the chance to study abroad. With limited funds, the Office of International Studies (OIS) might be compelled to restrict the number of permissions granted for off-campus study because of concerns regarding enrollment management.
According to Carolyn Sorkin, Director of the OIS, a fixed inflow of tuition dollars allows the University to support students who want to continue their academic studies in different cultural settings without being forced to decrease the number of professors on campus or downsize other services.
The revenue brought in through the home-school tuition policy does not directly subsidize students on financial aid who study abroad.
“All revenue is general revenue,” Meerts said. “In this environment we do not have cost centers.”
This also allows students to choose a program that suits their needs as opposed to choosing one based on individual cost, Meerts explained.
According to the OIS, students also may be able to save money while studying abroad if the costs of room and board are lower than their on-campus equivalent. In recent years, several peer institutions have also adopted a home-school tuition policy. Brandeis University charges students Brandeis University tuition, as well as a mandatory Off-Campus Study Fee of $400 per semester to cover administrative costs.
Other schools with home-school tuition policies include Brown University, Hamilton College, Vassar College and Wellesley College. Connecticut College and Smith College charge both home-school tuition and their comprehensive fee for tuition, room and board to students studying abroad.
Larger state schools, however, such as University of Michigan, do not charge home-school tuition for their programs. While most of their programs are comparable in price to the on-campus tuition, students may save money if they choose a less expensive program.
If students want to earn University credit from a Wesleyan administered or approved study abroad program, they must work with the OIS, as opposed to taking a leave of absence. As addressed in a recent Argus article, the University also exacts a charge of nearly $2,000 per-credit earned while not enrolled full-time. While this can also be a deterrent for some students, for others this option has greater financial viability. Noa Borkan ’12 plans on traveling to Israel during her junior year. Instead of going through the OIS, she feels she will be able to save money by taking a semester off and organizing her own trip and itinerary.
“If I didn’t have to pay Wesleyan’s tuition I would use a Wesleyan program,” she said. “I would like to use a program, but it’s not worth it financially.”
During the 2005-2006 school year, the University discontinued its policy of charging students “acceleration fees” for those who graduated in fewer than the standard eight semesters. Previously, this fee limited the financial viability of taking a semester off to study abroad and still earn Wesleyan credit.
While the University does not plan to eliminate its home-school tuition policy anytime soon, Sorkin noted that with the vagaries of the financial climate, policies could always change.
“In these financial times, it’s difficult to predict what changes the University might implement,” she said.