On August 19th the Interim Associate Provost for International Studies, Eric Singer, sent out an email to all staff members regarding a change to the voucher system for study abroad programs. The changes will begin with this year’s freshmen, who, rather than receiving the standard $1200 voucher will need to apply for the Goucher Global Grant. This new grant will allow financially disadvantaged students to apply for up to $2500, which will be used to cover travel expenses.
The grant is the creation of Singer, Provost Marc Roy and President José Bowen. Roy said, “The vouchers had a built-in unfairness. The system should be a more fair system.” He explained that the original voucher system was designed to cover the price of travel, regardless of where a student was going or their economic status. The new system, in his words, is “a more equitable arrangement.”
Singer emphasized that Goucher was neither cutting the study abroad requirement, nor was it cutting any programs. He also said there were talks about changing the program last year, but “no specific policy” was actually discussed. When asked whether the changes had anything to do with current economic issues, Singer said, “Everything has to do with economic issues… It would be irresponsible not to notice. The college as a whole requires us to pay attention to the bottom line.”
Roy also bought up economic issues as one of the contributing factors to the change. He also said, “The college is always looking to make study abroad costs as low as possible.” However, there would not be huge difference between the amount of money Goucher currently spends on study abroad and the amount it will spend. He added that it would be hard to tell how the new system will work out until this year’s current freshmen go abroad in their junior or senior year. “We can always change it,” he added, “We’ll figure out what went wrong and what needs to be adjusted.”
“Our hope is that it won’t have a negative effect,” Singer said. “There will be less of a hardship for families that have financial need issues.
The application process will not be difficult. A student will need to simply check off a box when filling out their study abroad forms and the Financial Aid Office will help determine if they qualify and if so, how much. Students who choose to study abroad in non-traditional countries will have a better chance of receiving grant money. Non-traditional countries are any countries outside of Europe. Students in the U.S. and at Goucher tend to gravitate towards programs in countries like England, Spain and France.
Singer said, “These countries are closest to America, culturally and academically. We are trying to highlight other countries.” Students who choose to study in Europe, however, will not be penalized.
Goucher remains the only school the United States that requires all students to study abroad. The school offers over sixty programs in thirty-two countries and six continents. Some of the countries are: England, France, Spain, Italy, Norway, Argentina, China, Serbia, Ghana and Russia. Besides semester-long programs, Goucher also offers Intensive Courses Abroad, (ICA) which last around three weeks, and which change from year to year depending on the cost and the number of students interested. This year, Goucher added two new ICAs: one in Amsterdam and another that goes to Japan and Taiwan.