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New policy may keep students from studying abroad

Beginning in the 2012-2013 school year, Mills will no longer be allowing students to use their institution-funded scholarships towards study abroad programs. This includes all financial aid and scholarships students have been awarded by Mills such as merit scholarships, Mills loans and work-study awards.

The change in policy, according to Jamie Nickel, Interim Vice President for Finance and Treasurer, is in an attempt to help balance the college’s budget.

“My understanding is that when a student goes away on study abroad, they pay tuition to the institution they are going to and Mills get’s nothing,” Nickel said in an email. “So for Mills to give institutional financial aid to the student to help cover that tuition cost, it means we are losing money on the transaction, we have negative net revenue.”

In general, study abroad programs cost less than attending Mills, according to Shari Keller, Director of Undergraduate Financial Aid.

But for many students, studying abroad is only plausible with the help of Mills scholarships because of the added costs of transportation, meals and tourist trips.

Ellen Newton, a senior Art History Major, studied abroad in Italy last spring and relied heavily on her Mills scholarship to get her there.

“Mills’ help was essential because there are tremendous fees beyond just tuition and housing,” she said. “My round trip airfare cost $1600! Meals, museums, regional travel and souvenirs all add up quickly, even if you’re living austerely.”

Students are still, however, able to use federally funded scholarships and grants in order to pay for study abroad, according to Keller. Private scholarships outside of Mills are also available to students.

“Many of the study abroad programs also have scholarship programs of their own, and students are able to apply directly to these study abroad programs for consideration of scholarships,” Keller said. “Students may also apply for outside scholarships for international study, such as the Gilman Scholarship, which is geared toward students with limited financial resources.”

For Newton, less funding means less students studying abroad, which ultimately leads to students being less prepared to face the challenges of the real world.

“Taking away this essential funding leaves many of us unable to study abroad,” she said. “This weakens our competitive edge in a globalized, multilingual world.”

According to Provost Sandra Greer, Mills does not want students to feel that they cannot study abroad.

“We want our students to have the possibility for foreign study and we will help them to continue to do so,” she said.