Study Abroad: “To Fee or Not to Fee – THAT is the Question”

He really did mean "fee"....


Does your study abroad office charge a per student administration fee?  If not, are you thinking about doing so?

It is also a philosophical question: Do we charge for a special fee for a program that we believe is core to the academic experience?

There is a lot to consider here, so I’ll attempt to keep the issues as simple as possible.  Consider this an overview – and hopefully folks will comment to create some dialogue around the questions posed.

There are at least four options to consider:

1) Charge a per student fee

2) Don’t charge a per student fee

3) Charge your home school tuition and no additional fee

4) Charge a fee to all students, whether or not they study abroad.

Let’s explore each option:

1) What are the benefits of charging an per student administrative fee?  The fee can be used to offset a variety of expenses (staff, overhead, memberships in international organizations, programming, assessment tools, etc) and to create a pot for program development funds as well as necessary emergency funds. The major issue with this fee is that it would add more expense to a program that already (often) requires more financial outlay than staying at home, especially when students (typically) have to give up their ability to work while abroad.

2) Not charging a fee means that we rely on the university’s budget to cover the office’s needs in full.  In these economic times, especially if you’re a public school, this is unlikely. (Heck, even during “good times” this was unlikely in many institutions.)  If often means that you will not have a development fund or emergency fund. Needless to say, not having these two funds is rather unsafe and will cause a lot of serious problems if your faculty led programs end up in a location that is experiencing a crisis (recent examples are the earthquake in New Zealand, the earthquake in Haiti, the protests in Egypt.)

3) Charging your home school tuition (with no additional fee) is only a viable option if your tuition tends to be higher than most study abroad program fees. This is more often the case for private institutions.  The benefits are typically that the students can use all of their regular financial aid and ideally, their scholarships, for their study abroad experience.  Some schools will also pay airfare as part of this arrangement.  And if the school at least breaks even in this process, one could argue that there is funding for a more comprehensive advising team.  The challenge with this model is that some of your students aren’t on financial aid and may have selected a much lower cost program than the home school tuition – so they could feel that they’re being poorly treated by having to pay more than the actual expense for study abroad.

4) How many schools charge an internationalization fee to ALL students? Just like we charge a technology fee and a student activities fee, perhaps we need to consider an internationalization fee.  This money could be used to enhance our study abroad programs and processes, to provide additional resources for our international students and to facilitate funding to enhance the curriculum so that it includes more international perspectives.

Now, I haven’t even mentioned how fees are agreed upon – that is a much longer explanation and not one for this particular blog posting.  Let’s just say that if you work for a state school, this is not as easy as it sounds!

What are your thoughts on fees?  Feel free to comment!  You do not need to register to comment and you may comment anonymously if you prefer.




  1. Lindsay says:

    We're talking about this in my office right now. Currently the students are charged a $200 Special Programs fee (in addition to the technology fee) when they study abroad but that money doesn't go to our study abroad budget. We're not sure where it goes. We're trying to perhaps eliminate the fee altogether.

  2. Missy Gluckmann says:

    I'm sure the funds go into the general college fund. But I would encourage your office to ask the question and to clarify how you can get funds back into services that directly support international education. I might suggest that you ask if an across the board "internationalization" fee be added instead of a special programs fee. This could be used to support program development, faculty and staff training, and internationalization of the curriculum.

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