SGA, University Senate pose opposition for study abroad fee

Mitchell Grogg

The $150 application fee for Study Abroad is being met with opposition in the governing bodies on campus.

The University Senate has passed a recommendation to delay a $150 application fee on all WKU study abroad programs until the summer of 2014.

The Student Government Association will also have a resolution against the fee up for a second read at tonight’s meeting.

The senate vote came after a Jan. 30 email announcing the implementation of this fee, according to the recommendation. The fee would apply to all study abroad programs, according to Craig Cobane, chief international officer and interim director of Study Abroad and Global Learning.

Mac McKerral, University Senate chair, said the fee came out of nowhere and that it had been added after students had already planned and organized trips abroad.

“When you’re already laying out $3,500 or $4,000 and have kind of maxed out your resources to do that, whether that be parents, grants, loans or whatever, it can be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

Cobane said the fee of $150 was a small part of the overall study abroad cost, saying that such programs tend to cost between $2,000 and $20,000.

The implementation of this fee has a goal of getting more students abroad, and helping to further internationalize WKU’s faculty, he said.

“As we try to increase the number of our students who study abroad, there are certain resources that we sort of need to make this happen,” he said.

The fee is also set to go toward the purchase of computer software that would give students information on study abroad programs that fit a student’s interests and major.

The SGA has also expressed opposition to the fee, according to Keyana Boka, executive vice president and International Education Committee student representative.

“So far, the Student Government, from everyone I’ve talked to, all the senators, their executive board, there’s been just a consensus that we are opposed to this fee,” she said.

She added that some students should not have to pay the fee.

“A lot of faculty, they were in the process of recruiting for their programs during the time that the fee was imposed, so I think that they should be exempt from the fee,” she said.

A resolution against the fee is set to have a second reading at SGA’s meeting. The resolution further states that the Office of International Programs and the Office of Study Abroad and Global Learning should “work with administrators to secure other sources of funding to increase the internationalization efforts of the University.”

To implement such a fee, Cobane said, it is first necessary to find a need for it, examine peer institutions and aspirant schools and then make a formal presentation to the provost.

Cobane also said that since the University of Kentucky had implemented a study abroad fee, the institution had seen the number of its students who study abroad roughly double.

McKerral, however, questions the use of other institutions and their policies to make decisions for WKU.

“I think you have to look at this simply from the point of what’s the best thing for the university and for our students, not because UK or Eastern or somebody else does it,” he said.

Cobane admits the timing and implementation of the new fee has not been perfect, noting he would have liked to have announced the fee’s intention earlier.

“I would have liked to have been able to the first day I was Chief International Officer,” he said. “Has our roll-out been perfect? No. Sometimes it happens.”

As far as delaying the fee, “As of right now, we are not planning on holding off on the fee,” he said.