Archive for Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Regent supports study abroad requirement

July 5, 2006


Robert Lopez has feasted on feijoada, the Brazilian national dish. He's witnessed Brazilian soccer hysteria from the stands of Mineirao Stadium. And he's toured the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico.

He's done all of this while working toward a degree at Kansas University.

"I wish I could spend all my college career abroad," said the KU senior who has studied in Brazil and Mexico. "I think you learn more when you study abroad than when you sit around a classroom with 30 people from Johnson County who haven't been outside the United States and don't have that broader knowledge."

Kansas Board of Regents Chairman Nelson Galle agrees. Galle is proposing an ambitious policy that would require all traditional four-year college students at the state's six universities to receive some type of international experience before they graduate. That experience could entail living, working or studying abroad.

"Is this policy expensive? Yes." Galle said. "Is this policy necessary? Absolutely."

It's not in writing yet, but Galle said he hopes to establish it as a formal policy sometime in the future. He wants university administrators and others to begin thinking about it now.

"This is something that the university and the students need to work out together," he said.

Learn more about study abroad

Galle, who studied in Turkey 50 years ago, said Kansas is like an island.

"Compared to the rest of the world, we have very few people, no pollution, no traffic problems," he said. "We are living in a flat world. I think it's absolutely necessary to have an international experience in high school or college or somewhere along the way so that when you see things and read things, they make sense."

Currently, 23.5 percent of KU undergraduates study abroad during college. About 1,800 KU students studied outside the United States last year, according to KU's Office of Study Abroad.

Meeting Galle's goal would mean more than doubling that number to just under 4,000 students per year, said Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, KU's study abroad director.

Aiming for 100 percent is a great goal, she said, but it would be costly.

"I think students want to go," Gronbeck-Tedesco said. "I don't think that's the problem. The problem that I hear is that it's hard to afford this experience."

Study abroad opportunities range from about $1,300 for a 10-day program in humanities and western civilization in London to more than $15,000 for a two-semester stint in Paris. Other yearlong stays can be cheaper, depending on the locale.

There are scholarships available, but more would be needed to support the effort that Galle is suggesting, Gronbeck-Tedesco said. It also would require additional support for study-abroad offices that oversee the students and programs, she said.

"I think, in general, the idea has some merit," said Joseph Steinmetz, dean of KU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Steinmetz said he had not heard the details of Galle's idea, but, at first blush, it sounded like cost would be the main issue.

"If it was going to be mandatory, we'd have to make sure everyone had access to the ability to do this," he said.

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway called the proposal an exciting goal.

"It'll be very difficult to achieve because of the costs involved, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to find a way to do it," he said.

at 832-7155.


JHawker 11 years, 11 months ago

This is such a wonderful goal and idea to have for students at any university! I recently returned from studying in both Germany and the Netherlands and loved every moment. I only wish i could indeed finish my degrees while abroad and that the costs were not so high. I highly recommend studying, living, or working abroad to anyone, it is necessary to be successful in the global world of today.

fletch 11 years, 11 months ago

I was an out of state student at KU and found out that in many cases, I could study abroad on a one-to-one exchange and actually pay less tuition than I would by staying at KU. This is a great goal. It's pie in the sky, but it's really hard to come up with negatives besides cost.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, but the cost is going to be a big hurdle for a lot of people. Saying that studying abroad is preferred is one thing, but requiring it is another, unless the universities want to pay the expense.

Come to think of it, if they had some sort of agreement with universities abroad, maybe that could be arranged.

But if it's required, and the student can't afford it, they don't get to graduate, even if all their course work is done? That doesn't sound fair, either.

average 11 years, 11 months ago

All six Regent's? Maybe this is doable compared to KU's skyrocketing cost, but I don't see how studying abroad fits in the budget of many Fort Hays or Pittsburg students. Lots of students with children, living with their parents for the childcare, aren't just going to up-and-go to Chile for the year. They're also going to have to seriously expand their partner-schools. In engineering school, we had to take at least one engineering class every semester (to graduate in four). Since none were offered abroad, almost no engineering students ever did it.

penguin 11 years, 11 months ago

yeah this is a great goal for KU and KSU. However, the regional universities just do not have many programs to choose from. I know FHSU really only has about 3 maybe 4 options for study abroad. I'm sure it is similar at ESU and PSU. I think this should be encouraged, but required is very difficult.

I do not doubt the benefit of studying abroad. My time in Russia not too long ago was amazing. However, I was lucky enough to find a great program, which happened to be twice as long and half the cost of any program KU offered to go to Russia.

Jamesaust 11 years, 11 months ago

" ambitious policy that would require all traditional four-year college students at the state's six universities to receive some type of international experience before they graduate."

We used to have this. It was called a foreign language requirement. Much cheaper by comparison. Just how much of an "experience" can a student get if they can't speak the language? This proposal sounds very similar to "tourism," which is a great eye-opener for a young person but let's not confuse it with schooling.

Academic dollars to subsidize education abroad is limited. Those dollars should be focused on those who demostrate a serious commitment to such study. That the Chairman of the Board of Regents would propose this while simultaneously being unable to deliver the goods (a/k/a, convince the Legislature to fully fund the Universities) is laughable.

44x15 11 years, 11 months ago

actually, i am an engineering student, and i studied abroad twice. opportunities do exist, you just have to look for them.

i managed to make up engineering classes during the summer for the semester that i went to spain to study the language, culture and history.

Harry_Manback 11 years, 11 months ago

I am studying abroad right now in Spain and I love it. I would reccommend that every student do it. My program was $5,000, but I received financial aid to cover all of it. The cost shouldnÂ't be an excuse for students not to do it. I donÂ't know if it should be required for all majors (aside from language ones), but IÂ'd definately reccommend it for all students.

middleoftheroad 11 years, 11 months ago

I applaud the Chairman for pushing toward the new frontier of higher education. More and more institutions are offering study abroad opportunities, with KU leading the pack. As a side note, the national average of college students who study abroad is 4% while KU is at almost 24%. An institution with high numbers of students studying abroad reflects favorably and shows that the institution is doing its job by preparing students for life after college.

Is his proposal possible? Who knows but just the fact that he is thinking forward should be relief to us all as our education system hasn't always been seen as "respectable".

I would imagine he has set a high bar knowing there will have to be compromise. It's like selling a house...he knows that he probably can't get everything he's asking for but some will be a success. I'm definitely excited to see how this all plays out in the future.

bige1030 11 years, 11 months ago

Given the ever-increasing costs of education, this is definitely the stupidest idea that I've ever heard. Who is going to pay? Certainly not the state, since it's already cash-strapped to support K-12 education. Yet another unfunded mandate, everyone!

One student mentions that there's financial aid available - but is there enough for every single undergraduate student on campus? There are probably about 20,000 undergraduates now.

Speaking of money in general, I think that a more prudent proposal for a new requirement would be a personal finance class. After all, managing money is a huge problem both for students and the nation as a whole. (I've heard that our nation is the only one with a negative savings rate.) Chairman Nelson Galle seems like he needs that class, too, to be reminded of all the financial pressures that someone without his income has to endure in making income - expenses > 0.

flutter 11 years, 11 months ago

Sure, studying abroad is a great experience for many people.

But I think Galle is overlooking the very important fact that many non-traditional students simply do not have the time to do so. Some lifestyles do not support the option of traveling for an extended period of time.

As mentioned above by "average", many students with children simply do not have the time to leave the country. Also, many students have to work part-time and full-time jobs while attending classes which could also deter them from being able to take off for an extended period.

Also, what about the students with family circumstances, such as a sick parent or sibiling, who simply would not want to leave the country for an extended period because they want to remain close to their family members??

Yes, there is a limited amount of financial aid available for study abroad. But much of that financial aid comes in the form of loans...I really do not feel that students should be forced to burden themselves with extra loan debt because of some idealists' opinion that everyone should be forced to travel in order to earn a college degree. Also, the financial aid programs in place rarely...if ever...cover the entire or even the majority of the cost of a study abroad trip.

This sounds like an idealistic that sounds good on the surface but quickly turns sour when considered more thoughtfully. This proposal just does not take into account countless factors.

When looked at realistically, making study abroad a requirement for a degree is simply ridiculous. It sounds like doing so would just put up additional hurdles for individuals who want to earn a college degree.

Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 11 months ago

Hhhmmmm. The article reports that Galle suggests this for traditional students, not non-trads. The 20,900+ undergrad students between KU's Lawrence and Edwards campuses are not divided equally between all four academic years. In 1996, less than 49% of the persons enrolling at KU as freshman were graduating. Costs can be reduced dramatically by waiting until students reach upper class status before sending them off to international destinations.

Don't let an immediate reaction to cost end the conversations. Allow the regents to explore all issues, and then make their decisions based on the facts. This proposal is only ridiculous when looked at simplistically, not when looked at realistically.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 11 years, 11 months ago

Absolutely awesome idea, go to Aruba and never be heard from again. Or studying botany somewhere and be killed. If it were my child, I'd insist they stay in the USA. Thank you, Lynn

J Good Good 11 years, 11 months ago

Your child is safer in most other countries than in the US. Bad stuff happens everywhere, but statistically the US is a very violent country..............

DaREEKKU 11 years, 11 months ago


Godot 11 years, 11 months ago

Study abroad is a semester of vacation and adventure. My youngest did it for several months. He learned to speak, fluidly, a language he had been studying since junior high. He also learned how dangerous it is to be a gringo in south america. Cost? $4,000 plus interest, and some really bad side effects from the anti-malaria pills. Worth it? I think he would say yes.

It should not be a requirement, but it should be an option to earn credit for traveling abroad, for just one semester.

You realize this whole discussion brings up the validity of the way Americans do college education in general. This regent is saying a dose of real life is worth more than butts in seats at a university. duh.

Linda Endicott 11 years, 11 months ago

Cost shouldn't be an excuse, Harry? What kind of comment is that?

Why should we be encouraging students to go even deeper into debt? Isn't there enough debt already in this country?

Exactly what do you learn abroad that is so important? Especially if it puts you so far behind financially that it takes you years and years to get out of debt, if you ever do?

People in this country are just too damn eager to get loans or credit cards to get the things that they really can't afford.

It's already difficult enough for some to be able to attend college at all. Let's not make it worse by requiring something so expensive.

The_Twelve 11 years, 11 months ago

"It'll be very difficult to achieve because of the costs involved, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to find a way to do it," he said.

Well, I AM abroad and have been abroad on several KU programs. Yes, it is an admirable goal, and NO--KU will not find a way to fund it. Those who go overseas will continue to be from wealthy families. I tried to find funding myself, and KU thwarted my actions--they even refused to give me the money that had been released to me for my benefit.

And after these students go abroad--how are you going to evaluate whether or not they have actually learned anything about their host culture? I could go hiking in the Canadian wilderness for 3 weeks and return to the US not understanding anything more about US/Canada relations or Canadian history, or Canadian eco-issues.

If the Regents are really interested in this, I suggest they talk to former participants--at all levels. Are you listening, Chancellor Bob???

Wilbur_Nether 11 years, 11 months ago

Twelve, this isn't about a KU program. This is a potential Regents initiative. Funding is certainly an issue. Safety is another, as Lynn731 points out. Potential benefit to the students as they compete in a global job market is yet another. However, if the Regents get behind this, for all universities in the Regents system, then these issues must be worked out. And KU won't be able to refuse any funds supplied by the Regents for the study abroad purpose.

I recall a prior Chancellor who drove from home to the office everyday. He seemed to have an allergy to students. Having attended KU under both, I can tell you I have a clear preference for the current administration.

The_Twelve 11 years, 11 months ago

Thanks Wilbur for the clarification. KANSAS will not find a way to fund it. As for the current chancellor--I don't think that walking to work --which I did for 16 years--will solve all of KU's problems, and doesn't mean that this chancellor is any more personable with students than prior men in the position.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.