Our View

Study abroad at Simpson is a valuable opportunity for all students. It’s great the college wants to expand the programs and provide students with even more options. Maybe students will one day spend a semester in Thailand or South Africa. Maybe one day students from those countries will come to study at Simpson. The opportunities are endless, and Simpson really wants to explore what options are out there.

In order to do this exploring, though, the college is discussing the implementation of a $100-$150 fee for May Term and a $400-$500 fee for semesters abroad. The college plans to use most of the money to send faculty to locales to determine whether or not they want to have a May Term or semester there. The International Education Working Group estimates the May Term fee will raise approximately $24,000 for faculty development, program enhancement and emergency funds.

The May Term and semester abroad trips are already very expensive. For some students, they are simply too expensive to be a reasonable option. Many other students must take out loans to cover the costs.

Adding $500 to a $4,000 semester is a lot of money. That doesn’t include the fact students are already paying regular tuition, room and board to the college. They could potentially be looking at a very pricey semester.

We understand the reasoning behind the fee, which is to build the international education programs and eventually save money, but implementing a fee may not really save students any money. Students will be paying back that $100-$500 for years. It may not seem like much money now, but with the way interest rates are going, students could still be paying off their sophomore May Term trips when they’re 50 years old.

We think it’s wonderful that Simpson professors may eventually be planning and leading their own trips, but completely cutting ties with third party vendors may not be wise, nor does it seem the college expects this to happen anytime soon.

Simply visiting a proposed location for a week isn’t going to make that faculty member an expert on the area. Even if the faculty member becomes familiar with the area and is able to lead a trip on his or her own, that doesn’t guarantee it will save money. A third party vendor may be able to set up cheaper package deals or find better places for the group to stay. These are things a faculty member may not know about.

Given that, getting rid of third party vendors for May Terms may actually save students hundreds of dollars because it eliminates fees from those vendors. But what about the semester programs? The ideal semester model is led by faculty members familiar with the area and generally does not use third party vendors. An example of this is the semester in London. In this case, the cost of the semester would actually be more expensive for the students if the fee is implemented.

It’s wonderful the college wants to become known for its study abroad opportunities, but the weight of the funding should not rest on the shoulders of the students. The college should search for alternative sources of funding to aid in its endeavors.

If outside funding (or allocating money from the college’s budget) is not an option, then the college should apply a smaller fee, maybe $20, to each student at the college. This would raise approximately $30,000 for program development and would allow each student to actually contribute to the success of study abroad at Simpson without suffering financial problems.

As for an emergency fund, the college should consider building the proposed fee into the semester or May Term as an emergency cushion and refunding the money at the end of the trip if it was not needed. This is what some May Term leaders already do, and it seems to work well in those instances.

If the college does decide to implement the fee, it should take into consideration the thoughts and feeling of students. Simpson should seek out student input and maybe even let students vote on the fee.

After all, we may not dump tea in the Buxton Park fountain, but we should have the right to weigh in on what we’re going to be charged.