Peers respond to ISA program

Yale’s introduction on Tuesday of a program to fund summer study and internship opportunities abroad for financial aid students was a move to help solidify a 21st-century image of Yale as a “global university,” officials at Yale said, and may push the University ahead in its competitive landscape. But the roll-out of Yale’s International Summer Award Program received a tepid response from officials at peer institutions.

Although the program, the first of its kind at a major American university, will facilitate overseas experiences for students on financial aid, admissions and financial aid officials at other universities said, the new ISA program is not sweeping enough to have a major impact at the University.

Yale’s ISA program will award grants to undergraduates for summer options overseas which will be proportional to the level of term-time financial aid they currently receive. Participating financial aid students will receive a grant of $2,250 to fully cover their expected summer earnings contribution, which will be awarded in addition to a personalized grant to pay for their expenditures abroad as determined by students’ individual financial need.

Although Yale’s ISA program is the first formal program of its kind, several peer institutions already have policies that lessen the burden on financial aid students who study abroad during the summer. Harvard provides summer funding for some students on financial aid, but does not have a formal program like the one Yale unveiled Tuesday, Harvard Director of International Programs Jane Edwards said.

“We run a small number of study abroad programs during the summer,” Edwards said. “We sent 39 students who would certainly not have been able to go abroad. We have more money this summer … it’s financial aid that is targeted towards opportunities we think are significant and important.”

Princeton also tries to financially assist students with summer programs, although the university does not have a comprehensive policy like Yale’s ISA program, Princeton Director of Financial Aid Don Betterton said.

“I think it’s fine,” Betterton said of Yale’s program. “We do have sources at Princeton that have [summer] funding for aid students.”

Princeton allows financial aid students to replace their expected summer-earnings contribution with a grant from Princeton and additional on-campus work study during the academic year, Senior Associate Dean of Financial Aid Robin Moscato said. Currently, about 15 to 20 percent of undergraduates participate in Princeton’s program. But unlike the newly proposed Yale ISA program, Princeton’s policy does not provide financial aid to cover expenses overseas in addition to the grant that replaces students’ summer earnings contribution.

Brown financial aid official Jeffrey Hill said he thinks Yale’s ISA program is a step in the right direction for the University, but is not a ground-breaking move.

“It’s really hard for me to say,” Hill said. “I think it’s a decent idea, sometimes students only have the opportunity to study abroad during the summer. It’s a great start.”

Yale’s ISA program, coupled with several other international efforts in recent years — such as the University’s 2001 expansion of need-based financial aid programs to include international students and recent moves to broaden the University’s profile in China and India — brings Yale closer to achieving its stated goal of becoming a more global university.

Decades ago, the University paid “lip service” to international opportunities and was slow to develop a global profile, Yale historian and professor emeritus Gaddis Smith said. For instance, while Smith said there were only six international students at Yale during his undergraduate years in the early 1950s, currently about 9 percent of undergraduates hail from foreign nations.

But in the last decade Yale has increasingly focused on overseas study for students. The Committee on Yale College Education’s 2003 academic review called for sweeping modifications of study abroad and financial aid to ensure that all students gain international experiences during their time at Yale.

Frustrated by the low number of Yalies pursuing study abroad opportunities — about 2.3 percent of Yale students are studying abroad this year, the lowest percentage in the Ivy League — officials hope the ISA program will make Yale more competitive with its peer institutions. International Education and Fellowships Program Director Barbara Rowe said students’ experiences overseas during the summer are likely to spark interests in studying abroad during the academic year as well.

Rowe said she hoped the change would enable her office to establish closer ties with large academic departments to help the University build a comprehensive collection of study abroad programs through which students can receive credit in their majors.

The ISA program, which may cost as much as $1 million next year, will launch its pilot plan this summer with start-up money raised through fundraising efforts, Levin said. But the University is looking for donors to endow the program permanently, and Levin said he expected a positive response from alumni toward the ISA program.

Brett Konner ’06 listens to a street performer in Budapest during the summer of 2004. Yale’s International Summer Award program aims to help students fund similar trips.
Courtesy BrettKonner
Brett Konner ’06 listens to a street performer in Budapest during the summer of 2004. Yale’s International Summer Award program aims to help students fund similar trips.

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