Staff Editorial: High cost of off-campus study creates an unfair financial obstacle

For many Lawrentians, the opportunity to study abroad is one of the biggest highlights of their four years and achieves the university’s goal of transforming us into globally minded individuals. However, for many students, studying abroad is not a feasible option. While the failure to meet academic requirements is one reason preventing students from going abroad, the most common cause seems to be a lack of adequate financial support.

Lawrence University’s mission statement says that our campus is “committed to the development of intellect and talent, the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, the cultivation of sound judgment and respect for the perspectives of others.” However, those of us who have lived on the Lawrence campus have realized the potential shortcomings of this statement due to our reality-shielding “Lawrence bubble.”

One of the best ways for students to accomplish the goals of our university’s mission statement is to burst the “bubble” by living in a new and unfamiliar environment. By studying abroad, students are able to apply their knowledge outside of the classroom and experience vital personal development that is unattainable in a small, comfortable environment like Lawrence University.

Unfortunately, studying abroad generally costs more than the tuition at Lawrence, not including the added costs of airfare, traveling and living expenses. While they may realize the extra personal costs necessary for study abroad, many still look forward to having the support of their academic scholarships and financial aid packages. That is, however, until they learn that some of their Lawrence financial assistance does not apply to the cost of studying abroad.

While need-based aid can still be applied to Lawrence-run centers and other accepted programs, students cannot apply their merit or music-based scholarships to their off-campus experiences. That means that not only are students having to shell out more money to just go abroad in the first place, they are also losing thousands of dollars they expected to be able to put towards their education.

At some level, all of this seems to make sense for students studying abroad in non-Lawrence affiliated programs. However, unfortunately, the loss of merit and music scholarships applies to Lawrence-specific programs as well, such as the ones in London and Senegal.

The relevant Lawrence departments of financial aid and study abroad would recommend that students apply to outside scholarships for their study abroad experiences. This is true; we can apply for scholarships, but two major hindrances make this a near-impossible option.

First, the Lawrence study abroad staff does not prioritize finding scholarships over handing in important travel materials and documents, such as travel insurance, that hold the university liable for students’ safety. Considering that students must be able to settle how they will pay for this experience first, there should be specific workshops that guide students through the process of looking for scholarships available.

The second issue is that most study abroad scholarships are extremely competitive. Lawrentians would have to compete with fellow Lawrentians as well as students from all over the world to prove that they are the most deserving of a scholarship that is only worth a fraction of the study abroad cost. Not to mention that it is hard for a full-time student to find the time to apply for them.

While studying abroad is certainly a privilege, it should be one that the university’s financial aid structures inherently promote and encourage. Lawrence should align itself with the liberal arts values it promotes by making the opportunity to study abroad available to as many students as possible.