Beginning next academic year, students studying abroad will no longer receive their institution-funded financial aid and scholarships to pay for international programs.
Rachel Draznin-Nagy, who receives a full merit scholarship to attend Mills, studied abroad in Paris this past year. She said that her scholarship money was crucial for her to study abroad.
“I wouldn’t have been able to go abroad without (financial aid) because the cost per semester was around $15,000,” Draznin-Nagy said.
The decision to discontinue providing institution-funded scholarships for study abroad will have far-reaching affects for both students and staff, according to Nicole Beckerman, a graduate student who participated in the study abroad program while she was an undergraduate at Mills.
“This new policy will, of course, curtail the number of Mills students able to undertake the amazing personal and academic journey that is studying abroad. This kind of experience is particularly important in the international environment we are living in,” Beckerman said.
Though the policy was announced last semester, many professors and students feel like it has been a sudden and unexplained decision.
“We are unsure who exactly made the decision, but we feel safe in saying that it was within the administration. Nevertheless, we are disappointed at this policy’s abrupt implementation (and) would have liked to have been consulted,” said Wah Cheng, the chair of the International Studies Committee.
Christian Marouby, a French professor and one of the study abroad advisors, said that students who are majoring in a language are going to be hurt the most by the new policy, as they are required to study abroad.
One solution, according to Marouby, is to put together a financial package that would help language majors study abroad.
Many students recognize the importance of studying abroad, regardless of major, and are worried that the new policy is going to hinder the students’ intellectual growth.
“While I understand the economic reasons for this decision – everyone is suffering – taking away resources isn’t a good idea, especially for study abroad. In this day and age, more than ever before, the United States needs better foreign relations, so why cut funding for a program that encourages cultural growth and understanding?” Draznin-Nagy said.
Beckerman was also concerned about how the new policy will affect both students and Mills as an institution.
“This decision makes me worry for Mills’ overall reputation for turning out excellent, strong and informed individuals, because a big part of that personal development for me was the discoveries I made while abroad,” Beckerman said.
President Alecia DeCoudreaux asserts that studying abroad is still a priority at Mills and that the administration is currently searching for ways to offer more options.
“There are people who are looking at these programs and how best to improve these programs,” DeCoudreaux said. “We are all mindful of the fact that we live in a global world and the technology that we have has connected us in so many ways, that we truly are citizens of the world, not simply this local community or the United States – which makes study abroad programs and language programs very, very important as much, if not, more than ever before.”