Under the current system, Georgetown University students who study abroad are often paying exorbitant fees for insufficient support.
Foreign students who matriculated directly into the London School of Economics’ one-year exchange program for the 2017-18 academic cycle were charged an annual tuition fee slightly above $25,000 at the beginning of the semester, according to the school’s fee tables.
Meanwhile, Georgetown students who matriculated into LSE this year through the university’s Office of Global Education are expected to pay the full price of Georgetown tuition, as mandated by the office’s current study abroad pricing scheme, effective as of 2005.
As such, unless they obtained a scholarship or transferred their financial aid package, these Georgetown students are paying $51,720 for the year abroad — more than double the program’s actual price.
Georgetown is the 18th-most expensive institution in the United States, the country with the highest average tuition fees for private universities around the world. As a result, one can expect that other study abroad programs offered by Georgetown are similarly overpriced.
When students abroad raised these concerns last year, Rachel Pugh, Georgetown senior director for strategic communications, wrote an email to The Hoya, saying that these funds were used to cover the time and resources devoted to study abroad, including the support that students receive from Georgetown.
She added that this fee structure seeks to prevent students from choosing programs solely on the basis of cost.
This explanation fails to clarify or justify the university’s use of its students’ money.
It is difficult to imagine university services accounting for the total cost difference, particularly when the extent to which OGE supports students on-site varies from program to program.
This ambiguity makes the lack of transparency in Georgetown’s administration of leftover revenue from tuition payments all the more concerning.
In addition, students, particularly those who would be unable to completely cover program costs without financial assistance or would be otherwise eligible for discounted prices at their chosen destinations, should not be deterred from engaging in such an experience by inflated costs.
If Georgetown truly aspires to make the financial aspect of studying abroad transparent and equal, OGE should replace its current pricing scheme with a competitive market system that reflects a program’s true cost and should charge an additional fee only to cover support services.
This fee should be tailored to each program. With OGE already openly classifying the levels of on-site support across programs as “limited,” “moderate” or “comprehensive,” it is nonsensical to continue homogenizing programs by charging the same prices across the board.
Studying abroad is a valuable experience. Students not only gain access to additional academic opportunities, but also are given the chance to go beyond the university’s boundaries, discovering foreign countries and cultures and meeting people from different backgrounds.
A semester or year at a foreign university can lead students, particularly those who have never spent time abroad before, to the holistic education and growth enshrined in Georgetown’s mission and values.
Georgetown’s current fees succeed in providing equal conditions for studying abroad. But these equal conditions do not lead to equal opportunities, and by failing to do so, provide no justification for maintaining the university’s current financial schemes.