Yale open to study-abroad investigation

Yale will cooperate with a request from the Connecticut attorney general for records pertaining to its study-abroad programs as part of a probe into whether officials at universities around the state received kickbacks from study-abroad companies, University officials said Monday.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 said this weekend that he is launching an investigation into whether administrators at Yale and nine other Connecticut schools may have contracted with study-abroad companies because of financial incentives or other perks they or their universities would receive from the providers, and not merely because of the quality of their programs.

University lawyers first reviewed Yale’s practices regarding study-abroad companies in the fall after an August article in The New York Times indicated that the relationships between officials at some colleges and the study-abroad organizations with which they are affiliated might cross ethical boundaries, with the companies offering perks — ranging from cash bonuses to free junkets overseas — to schools that offer their programs.

That review found that the University’s practices were ethically sound, Jane Edwards, the associate dean for international affairs, told the News in September. In a written statement e-mailed to the News on Monday, the University said it stands by that assessment.

“Yale has long had policies to guard against conflicts of interest on the part of administrators, including study abroad administrators, and the University is confident that its approval of overseas study is based solely on academic quality and the well-being of Yale students,” the statement said.

Yale students pay their study-abroad tuition directly to the companies with which the University contracts, and Yale receives no part of that tuition, University officials said.

The programs with which the University works are approved by Yale’s Committee on the Year or Term Abroad. Those approvals are based on “academic quality, student services, health and safety, and emergency preparedness,” according to the statement. Yale rates the programs through evaluations from returning students, discussions with study-abroad administrators at peer universities and foreign visits, the University said.

Edwards and Barbara Rowe, the director of the Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs, declined interview requests over the weekend and referred questions to the Office of Public Affairs.

According to the Yale IEFP Web site, the University has contracted with three of the four study-abroad providers under scrutiny in an ongoing investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, with whom Blumenthal has now joined forces. They are: the Institute For Study Abroad at Butler University in Indianapolis; the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark; and the Center for Education Abroad at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa.

Last week, Cuomo announced that he had widened his investigation to include 15 colleges and universities, including three of Yale’s Ivy League peers — Harvard, Brown and Columbia universities.

Yale had managed to stay out of the investigation until Blumenthal launched his probe, which was first reported this weekend. Nine other schools in Connecticut, including the University of Connecticut, Wesleyan University and Quinnipiac University, are also under scrutiny by the attorney general.

— The Associated Press contributed reporting from Hartford.

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