Key Takeaways from NAFSA’s Collegial Conversation “Achieving Affordable and Equitable Participation in EA”
Students often cite finances as a barrier to international experiences. In an effort to engage all students in transformative international experiences, institutions should consider their education abroad offerings with an eye towards affordability and equity among program choices, while ensuring access to resources, funding support, and clarity in application processes.
This Collegial Conversation was held on July 21, 2021. Collegial Conversations are a member benefit; NAFSA members can access the full transcript online.
- Katie DeGuzman, Dean and Director for Education Abroad at Dickinson College
- Kris Holloway, President of CIS Abroad
- Katherine Meyer, Faculty-Led and Study Away Programs Coordinator at Hamline University
- Noah Rost, Director of Global Education at Arizona State University
Financial Strategies for Accessibility and Affordability
- Reduce or eliminate upfront costs for students during the application process. Examples include: flight vouchers, reduced application fee, building the application fee directly into the students’ account.
- Price programs affordably and consider having an “all-inclusive” model which eliminates the need for students to pay anything once they are abroad.
- Leverage existing partnerships to reduce tuition, accommodation, and teaching costs
- Review your current list of program offerings. Is it still realistic in a COVID world? You might need to “prune” some programs to focus on sites that you can actively manage.
- Get creative and consider including a remote/virtual credit-bearing component such as internships and intercultural learning. Or, consider building a modular program that involves work on campus, abroad, and virtually.
Collaborate Across Departments and Offices When Designing Programs
- Think outside the Study Abroad Office Box! Do you have a rockstar faculty with interesting research projects and connections? What are your Career Services, Service Learning, Student Success, and DEI Centers doing? The more connections you can make and find across your institution, the more you will be able to approach program design and delivery through multiple perspectives.
- Create sustainable programs that build capacity. Many universities incorporate a cohort approach starting freshman year so that students have continuity and camaraderie with their peers throughout their undergraduate career. This engagement can extend to education abroad programming where returning students complete a research or capstone project as part of their curriculum or class.
Err on the Side of Transparency but Demand Shared Risk and Responsibility
- Communicate clearly and often. Even before the global pandemic, study abroad and higher education in general involved many moving parts. With the added variable of navigating health and safety during a pandemic, how do universities reconcile cautious optimism with global uncertainty? In the digital information age, students and their families are more involved in all stages of the education experience, so it is vital that your institution sends clear and constant communication to all stakeholders.
- Consider implementing a social contract for students to assume responsibility for their behavior, especially in light of the pandemic. Many universities have already adapted such a social contract or have included similar language in their Student Code of Conduct in order to prioritize the health and well-being of the community above all other concerns.
One Size Does Not Fit All. Listen to Your Students
- Decipher your students’ needs. While the strategies and ideas mentioned above are great, really know your students and their needs. What may seem equitable and accessible to you during the planning and development stage may not be the case once your students travel abroad. That is why it is important to have strong relationships with your partners and providers abroad and to really know the in’s and out’s of the host city and to be prepared for anything that may positively or negatively affect your students’ experiences.
- Consider your students’ orbit of influence. Students of color, first-generation students, and students from underrepresented disciplines do not usually make their decisions in a silo. The information-gathering and decision-making process often involves family and community members, mentors, and faculty. Anticipate their questions and concerns and be prepared to spend more time focusing on the individual student and the best program options for them.
- Recognize that hybrid, online, and distance learning are here to stay. Students may be exploring any and all possibilities to have a “global” experience, even if it means not stepping foot outside of their university. Study Abroad Offices will need to be prepared to offer and deliver these combination experiences.
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