Study abroad may feel pinch of dollar

The weakening American dollar has had an impact on everything from foreign trade to Americans’ travel habits. But this summer, some Elis will feel the impact even more directly as they pack up and prepare for summer study sessions abroad.

The cost to Americans of living in other countries and fees for programs abroad have increased as foreign currencies have appreciated against the dollar , and costs have become particularly high in regions where the U.S. dollar is weak, like Western Europe. Although students have thus far largely kept their travel plans in tact, the rise in prices could keep Yalies at home in future years, Associate Dean of International Affairs Jane Edwards said.

“Tuition is always related either to what you’re paying the institution or what the institution is paying to hire faculty,” Edwards said. “When the exchange rate is unfavorable to the U.S., both of those costs go up, and this is going to be a problem.”

Confounding the exchange-rate problem is an increase in the price of oil that has made air travel prohibitively expensive for some.

But, Edwards said, the full effects of the economic downturn have probably not yet been felt, a reality that may cause apprehension in some households.

“Parents are worried about paying for things going forward, given the economy’s downward turn,” she said. “They are less likely to want to send their child on an expensive study-abroad program, and there is a lack of consumer confidence.”

According to a report by Inside Higher Education, a Web site dedicated to news about universities and colleges, the costs of studying in France have increased by almost $500, and prives have risen by $1000 for some programs in Germany and Italy.

Even so, the number of Americans studying abroad increased by 8.5 percent from last year, and there is a greater demand than ever among American students to study abroad, said Shannon Bishop, program manager at the Institute of International Education.

Karyn Jones, Study Abroad director at Yale’s International Education and Fellowship Program office said the same holds true for Yale students. She said her office has not seen a decrease in students looking to spend their summers abroad as the result of exchange rates or burgeoning program costs. But while summer-abroad costs are indeed increasing, Yale foots all or part of the bill for many students.

Diana Linton ’11, who won a Light Fellowship for Japanese, Chinese and Korean language study in East Asia, said Yale grants will pay for every aspect of her expenses — travel, tuition, room, board and food. Just for one summer session, the costs are upwards of $7,000, a cost she said she would not have been able to cover without the fellowship. A dollar buys about 100 Japanese yen, down from about 120 yen last summer.

“I couldn’t even get the deposit money before I was awarded the Light Fellowship,” Linton said. “If I hadn’t got some kind of scholarship, I wouldn’t be going to Japan.”

Linton said she considers herself lucky, since she thinks her summer travel would have been impossible if she attended many state schools or less wealthy private schools.

Ultimately, it is unclear just how much of an effect the economy will have on study-abroad trends, Edwards said.

“What we’ve seen in the past is that these factors are important,” she said. “But there’s no way I could predict the extent to which this will impact the number of students studying abroad.”

Comments