The Office of International Programs requires that students pay Brown tuition when they spend a semester abroad, regardless of whether the program is Brown-sponsored or not. While we can imagine justifications for such a policy, it still should not cost as much to study abroad as it currently does.
Student experiences through the OIP vary widely. Among the more expensive programs that Brown offers are those in Italy, the United Kingdom and France, simply because these nations have higher standards of living. The cost of housing, food and other day-to-day expenses will inevitably be higher than a program in, say, India. Similarly, the cost of tuition at universities in any of these nations will vary, though not necessarily according to that nation’s standard of living. No Brown-sponsored or Brown-approved program’s tuition even comes close to that of Brown, yet all students studying abroad are required to pay a semester of Brown tuition for their program. There are no exceptions.
We are not so naïve as to believe that when paying a semester of Brown’s tuition, the money is only paying for tuition at the institution abroad. The OIP must pay employees to organize programs, run the office and take care of the logistics in the program abroad and such. Still, it seems highly unlikely that a student studying abroad is receiving the same financial returns as a student on campus at Brown. Certainly, students have reasons to study abroad beyond making a sound financial investment, including experiencing another culture, traveling while young and often free of many adult responsibilities and researching in a way that is impossible to do from a library in Providence. But there is an opportunity cost to studying abroad, which is missing a semester’s worth of resources available only at Brown, and this opportunity cost ought to be taken into account at the OIP. If a semester’s worth of tuition at a university in Delhi is less than $1,000, then it is fundamentally unreasonable to ask that a student pay full Brown tuition to attend.
The OIP might justify the expense by stating that students will earn Brown credit for the courses taken, and that this is largely what we’re paying for at Brown — the name. But this argument does not stand, because students are not required to pay full tuition when studying away in the United States, and also because transfer students receive credit for courses taken at what are sometimes less expensive academic institutions. Another point is that we cannot reasonably expect that all students will receive a return on their payment to Brown. Students who consistently take lab courses or exceptionally small classes will be using more of the University’s resources than students who consistently take large lecture courses in the social sciences, but few would demand that the latter students receive a discount on their education. The difference here lies in the extent to which study abroad programs are less expensive. In some programs, it would be extremely difficult for a student to use over $22,000 worth of resources provided by Brown or the host institution. This needs to be addressed.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Matt Brundage ’15 and Rachel Occhiogrosso ’14, and its members, Hannah Loewentheil ’14 and Thomas Nath ’16. Send comments to email@example.com.