Weak dollar hurts US students abroad

The World

Now’s the time when students interested in studying abroad next year are turning in their applications. Luckily they don’t have to commit just yet because nobody really knows what that semester or year will cost by then. And that has the people who run study abroad offices at US colleges and universities worried. �There’s no question about it, that it’s one of the big concerns and issues in the field right now,� that’s the President and CEO for the Forum on Education Abroad. His group reports that the costs of study abroad programs are up 10-15% in recent years, �It doesn’t correspond to the percentage of the decline in the Dollar especially against the Euro or the British Pound, but I think it is the resulting impact of currency fluctuation on price.� Those fluctuations have made it difficult to forecast costs a year down the road which is how many schools budget for study abroad. For American students already overseas, living within their means has been challenging. This student has been in Belfast since September. He’s due to return to Harvard next week, �I just checked my bank statement yesterday and I’m nearing bankruptcy but that’s alright. I guess I should have done more research and I should’ve maybe understood that since the currency was so strong I would be at a disadvantage financially.� He says he hasn’t been living high on the hog while in Northern Ireland; he cooks a lot of his meals at home. For him splurging is an occasional dinner out at the local pizza joint, �You have to look forward to things in life. At the same time, I feel kind of sick about the fact that I’m spending $30 dollars for a pizza, a coffee and a salad.� Administrators say they can’t do much about how students budget for such personal expenses, but they are trying to be creative about keeping overall costs down. This man runs the International Education Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder, �When a student goes on a program to study in, say, Spain, cultural events will be included in the cost of the program. So if there in to a trip to see the flamenco dancers, a trip to the bullring, that would also be included in the program. And if those can be optional trips for the students who can afford them and then reduce the cost of the overall program to all of the other students, that’s one way we’ve worked with providers to reduce costs.� In other instances, schools have been looking for cheaper housing for students headed to Europe and programs with large cash reserves have been buying Euros and Pounds on the futures market to protect against the plummeting dollar. Still the dollar’s fall doesn’t appear to be scaring away large numbers of students, at least not yet, and Europe remains the destination of choice for most. Yet there’s been a growing interest in so-called non-traditional destinations such as Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The President and CEO of the Forum on Education Abroad welcomes this trend and he says the falling dollar may actually prompt more students to look beyond Europe, �That’s a potential positive outcome of this.� For now students set on Europe may have to be more creative about stretching their dollars if they want to avoid making an emergency call home to mom and dad. The Harvard student says his last week in Belfast may be lean but he’ll be ready, �I’ve stockpiled multivitamins and if I have to stop eating, then I’ll get my nutrition in another way. But I refuse to make the call home.�

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