Financial Aid and Funding Education Abroad

By Lauman, Brad; Stubbs, Nancy et al. | International Educator, March/April 2006 | Go to article overview
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Financial Aid and Funding Education Abroad


Lauman, Brad, Stubbs, Nancy, Gliozzo, Charles, Lee, Elizabeth, International Educator


"BUT IT COSTS TOO MUCH." Those words are often heard by education abroad advisers from students considering studying abroad during their college years. Prohibitive cost is one of the reasons students do not consider education abroad when planning their undergraduate careers. Unfortunately, study abroad can be much more expensive than the usual cost of education at the student's home campus. But today there is more opportunity for students to study abroad than ever before: students can often use campus financial aid programs to help pay for the experience.

Some students may not realize that financial aid resources can be used to make an overseas experience affordable. Others may think there are endless scholarships out there waiting to be tapped for that experience in England. With the increased availability of financial aid to fund education abroad, advisers have yet another area of expertise they need to develop to help students. Not only do advisers need to provide access to affordable programs, but they also must now be experts on how students can obtain financial assistance.

Financial Aid and Education Abroad

Most education abroad advisers are aware of the types of financial aid available to students. Basically, it comes in three forms: governmental (federal and state aid, institutional (from the college or university that the student attends) or private (foundations, ethnic groups, clubs, religious groups, associations, and private and public organizations). Financial aid is available in the form of grants, scholarships, loans, or work-study. However, there are often restrictions on financial aid. Institutional aid is sometimes awarded only to students enrolled at the institution and is sometimes restricted for use only on the home campus or in the home state because of restrictions set by the funding source or institutional budget constraints.

Because of these restrictions, students who are heavily subsidized by institutional scholarships often cannot afford to study abroad, even if a term abroad actually costs less (as it does in some cases) than a term at the home campus. This unfortunate fact sometimes clashes with an institution's stated goal of providing international experiences to all students. On some campuses with more advanced internationalization programs, all financial aid is usable for education abroad as an entitlement of enrollment in good standing.

Private aid, usually available as scholarships or grants, sometimes also has restrictions. For example, it may require that a student use it for specific colleges or geographic regions and so private aid may not be available to use while studying overseas.

Where Can I Learn More about the Aid Available on my Campus?

The campus financial aid office is the first and best source of information on all the kinds and sources of aid available at an institution. The office provides information that outlines the types of institutional aid available to students as well as funds available through academic departments. It also has information about the often-bewildering variety of private aid available to college students. Many universities now provide a search service for students who want to see if they can qualify for private aid. This is usually a low-cost or free alternative to the many commercial scholarship search services.

What Financial Aid Can Be Used for Education Abroad?

The ideal answer to this question is "everything the student would normally receive, plus any special study abroad scholarships that can be found." Using all types of federal financial aid for study abroad is perfectly legal as long as the student is eligible and the institution has approved the courses taken abroad for credit. Many states pattern their financial aid rules and regulations on federal statutes and regulations, so that aid can also be used for study abroad. However, institutional and private aid may or may not be available for study abroad, depending on the restrictions placed on the award.

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