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Archive for Monday, March 26, 2007

Bill would help develop study abroad programs

March 26, 2007

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College tuition doesn't come cheap, at home or abroad.

Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, director of the Kansas University Office of Study Abroad, said cost was one of the main factors in preventing students from studying overseas.

But if a national fellowship program that was recently proposed were put in place, she knows she'd see more students in her office. That would also help the OSA meet a five-year goal to increase the number of KU students who study abroad from 26.2 percent to 40 percent.

KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway urged Congress this month to pass the Sen. Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act of 2007, H.R. 1469, which was introduced by Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

The congressional bill would focus on developing programs for nontraditional study abroad destinations. Gronbeck-Tedesco said for KU, those would be African and Asian countries. She said much of the university's language study programs used to be focused on Europe, but that's changing.

OSA awards scholarships to 10 percent of its applicants. Gronbeck-Tedesco said a large portion of students are using federal financial aid.

Last year approximately 1,330 KU students studied abroad. That number could double if students could receive scholarships valued at $5,000 to $9,000, she said.

Two student advisers in the OSA said if students look for money, they'll find it.

"There are a lot of scholarships; it's just a matter of connecting students to them," Kara Roelofs said.

Roelofs, who studied for a semester in Merida, Mexico, in a Spanish-language immersion program, received two scholarships for her trip last spring. She said if she had been desperate for money she knows she could have found more, and, she added, there are always loans.

Jessie Funk went to Capetown, South Africa, last spring. She said some program costs were comparable to out-of-state tuition. But, she added, the experience outweighs the cost.

"Studying abroad allows students to gain a global perspective, confidence, independence and adaptability, all skills employers are looking for," Funk said.

OSA has 10 study abroad scholarships, one recently established by KU alumni Larry Horner and Donna Manning Horner. The couple's donation of $500,000 in February represents a one-third increase in scholarship funds, Gronbeck-Tedesco said.

According to an annual report published by the Institute of International Education, more than 200,000 U.S. students studied abroad in 2006, an increase of 8 percent from 2005.

KU, which ranks eighth among public universities in the nation for the number of undergraduates who study abroad, has seen a 12.7 percent over the past three years.

- Journal-World intern Erin Castaneda can be reached at 832-7261.

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