Study Abroad Committee raises GPA standard

by Tyler Utzka

Students better take another look at their grades before planning for a semester or May term abroad.

Simpson’s Study Abroad Committee recently recommended to Simpson faculty a change to the grade point average requirement for the study abroad program. The new requirement for long-term study abroad is 2.5 while the short-term requirement was lowered to 2.0.

Faculty approved this recommendation at the February faculty meeting.

According to the ‘Study Abroad Committee’s Rationale for Study Abroad GPA Policy Proposal’, that by requiring students to have demonstrated academic success at Simpson, it decreases concern about academic problems in a foreign environment.

The majority of institutions with which Simpson partners for study abroad require a minimum of GPA of 2.5 or higher.

Rebecca Livingstone, assistant professor of history, will be traveling to Italy this May term and approves of the change.

“The universities that Simpson partners with abroad all have GPA requirements for our students to enroll in their programs,” Livingstone said. “A Simpson student has to meet the partner institutions’ GPA requirements, so it makes sense to bring our requirements for study abroad into line with these programs.”

The policy proposal also states that students’ studies will be impacted by the tremendous concentration needed to translate and develop their ability to communicate when living in a country where a foreign language is spoken.

Junior Lindsey Oetken sees the requirements helpful during the applicant selection process.

“I can see how looking a GPA could be useful for the selection of students going abroad. If the selection committee or person has to make a choice between two juniors who want to go abroad, with the same financial aid situation, looking at their GPA could be a determining factor,” Oetken said. “I feel as though it is fair to give a person with a higher GPA the boost over someone without.”

Oetken puts another viewpoint in perspective.

“This reminds me of the discussions held after the decision was made to not use GPA for the Housing Lottery. At one end, it is good to reward people for their hard work, but in the end, grades are very circumstantial, with no real concrete basis,” Oetken said. “What could serve as a way to encourage someone to work harder for the opportunity to travel abroad could also discourage others who aren’t as confident in their academics.”

Jay Wilkinson, international education coordinator, does not expect a decline of interest due to the new GPA requirements.

“As the vast majority of students applying to study abroad already meet the new GPA requirements, we do not anticipate much, if any, change in the number of students study abroad as a result of this change,” Wilkinson said.

Livingstone offers a bit of advice.

“What I hope students will realize is that they need to plan ahead if they want to apply for study abroad, making sure that their GPA is above the minimum,” Livingstone said. “The study abroad experience is something to work towards and is well worth the effort.”