May Term trip interest on decline

May Term trip interest on decline

The priority application date for May Term travel courses has come and gone. However, several factors have caused a substantial decline in applicants from past years.

Marzia Corni-Benson, acting international program coordinator, said that about 100 students applied this year compared to last year’s 190 students.

“I think it’s the economy,” Corni-Benson said. “Parents and students are spending more carefully.”

After speaking with Tracie Pavon, director of Financial Aid, Corni-Benson said loans are tougher to get this year than they have been in the past. Most loans that are available require parents to co-sign, which is a change from past years.

“As you know, banks are not as generous as they used to be in giving loans,” Corni-Benson said.

In addition to a struggling economy, a couple of the trips are more expensive than they’ve been in the past. Corni-Benson said this is probably due to a rise in fuel prices and exchange rates that aren’t in the United States’ favor.

Senior Allison Lane, an undergraduate assistant who helps coordinate study abroad paperwork for students, agreed that the cost is especially high this year, which is turning students away from travel.

“Traveling abroad is always costly,” Lane said. “But on the whole, this is the priciest May Term that I can remember.”

Senior Jessie Eilbert said she would consider looking into a travel course if they weren’t as expensive.

“I was able to study abroad in Thailand for $1,500,” Eilbert said. “Some of the courses are $5,000 for three weeks. I can’t justify that kind of money.”

Mark Freyberg, associate professor of sociology, is leading a trip to Peru. He agreed that money is probably affecting students’ decisions. Freyberg said the application process might be another factor keeping students from applying.

“I think the application process is a little bit cumbersome,” Freyberg said. “I personally do not like the essay students have to write.”

When applying for the trip, a reflection essay explaining interest in the trip is now required. Applicants also must submit a copy of their passport or a copy of a passport application and a current copy of their degree audit and pay a $200 deposit.

While Freyberg had to cancel his trip last year due to lack of interest, Peru has attracted enough attention this year that he shouldn’t face the same problem.

Total applicants are obviously lower this year. However, a couple of the trips have had no problem finding interest.

“Belize has been by far the most popular trip and is now completely full,” Corni-Benson said. “Costa Rica and China are next with a couple spots left in each.”

In the past, Simpson College has rarely struggled with finding interest in its study abroad programs overall. According to the Office of Admissions, over 40 percent of students study abroad during their college years.

“My philosophy is that no one should go through college without taking advantage of travel opportunities,” Corni-Benson said. “May Term is a great time to travel if you don’t have the time in your schedule to leave for an entire semester.”

Corni-Benson said that applications will be accepted until shortly after fall break. At that point, organizers will have to determine whether any trips will be cancelled.

If any trip is cancelled, Corni-Benson said students will get their $200 deposit back. Students who do not get into their first choice trip will also have the option to get their deposits back as well.

“It’s certainly not too late to apply, and I encourage all students to consider it,” Corni-Benson said. “Students who need to sit down and visit with their parents regarding May Term Travel course, should take advantage of Fall Break to do so and submit their apps as soon as they return to Campus.”

Information about May Term travel courses is online: www.simpson.edu/studyabroad/mayterm/index.html.