The Economics and Ethics of Study Abroad

I came across this thought provoking piece by Richard Vedder.  He argues that a standardized assessment of study abroad should be implemented and that those who don’t pass should feel the pain of financial implications.

Vedder writes through the lens of an economist – as he directs the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Ultimately, his two questions boil down to:

1) Are we really serving students or our pocketbooks?

2) Who is watching the ethics and quality of these programs when the money is rolling in?

These are two VALID questions and in my opinion, they are NOT talked about enough in our field.  

Interestingly, he doesn’t mention anything about the danger and cost to nations of colleges (or any organizations) facilitating poorly planned programs that enhance intercultural incompetence. Certainly, there is also an economic cost to those issues.

Read his piece and comment below with your thoughts!




  1. Maria C. Snyder says:

    It's an interesting piece. He does, however, seem overly harsh in his view of the programs in general. Do you think establishing an accrediting agency would be possible? He also suggests exams for returning students which I think sounds horrible.

    • Missy Gluckmann says:

      I think his style is very direct – and we don't really talk that way in our field. We know that cost is an issue, but we're usually too busy with our heads down working to stop and properly address it in a very strategic manner. I don't think that programs should be isolated and reviewed by a separate agency. I think training needs to take place WITHIN institutions to ensure learning outcomes and sound program delivery – not only for participants, but for the host community also. Exams for returning students is ridiculous. However, assessing the larger "what did I learn" is easily possible through tools like the BEVI. Most schools won't take the time or use funds for something like this however. Ironically, he is a strong advocate of study abroad done well – although you really wouldn't know that by this piece. (I read another short blog posting of his that states this…but he, like me and many others, has serious concerns about how much $ it costs and how little measurement or guidelines people follow to ensure safe, responsible programs.) Thanks for sharing your thoughts Maria!

  2. Nick Myers says:

    Amazing that we (if I may still include myself) in the profession are still mostly incapable of having an honest conversation about this increasingly serious issue. Although I think Vedder and many of his commentators are not fully informed about international education (e.g. who actually is paying for it and some of the outcome studies that have been done), his core ideas are mostly valid and in many cases I would take them even farther. Unfortunately, my increasing discomfort with these problems and the fact that talking about them will get you nowhere professionally are the main reasons I no longer work in international education, despite the fact that I still think it is vital to the education of our young people.

    • Missy Gluckmann says:

      I hear you and I couldn't agree more. It is one of the reasons that I started Melibee Global. I couldn't watch the mechanics in the college scene ignore these issues any longer. Lack of funding is no excuse to profit on the backs of students trying to educate themselves about the world around them. The lack of dialogue about it enrages me – and I really appreciate that you took the time to share your perspective. It is refreshing and I hope more educators chime in instead of following the pack out of fear, exhaustion and belief that things cannot change.

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