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Lafayette students to cross into N. Korea

Lafayette College in Pennsylvania may be the first American university to offer a for-credit study-abroad program in North Korea this summer.

The program is being organized through the P'yongyang Project, a non-profit based out of Beijing that has run trips to North Korea since 2009.

The U.S. government has issued a warning for citizens traveling abroad in North Korea. "U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea without proper documentation, even accidentally, have been subject to arrest and long-term detention," reads the warning. The U.S. does not have diplomatic or consular relations with the North Korean government.

The Lafayette program would be a two-and-a-half-week trip to China, North Korea and South Korea to study cultural interactions between the three countries. It was organized by Lafayette Assistant Professor of Anthropology Allison Alexy, who will co-lead the trip.

The students would be under a number of security measures from both the program and the North Korean government. Restrictions would prevent them from taking photographs, publishing articles, leaving the group without permission and traveling anywhere without a North Korean staff person.

The trip is structured in such a way that the North Korean portion could be canceled if any risks arise, Alexy said. The program organizers have also made arrangements for emergency charter flights in case they need to evacuate, she added.

There have not been any security issues with the P'yongyang Project's past trips, project director and co-founder Matthew Reichel '09 told Inside Higher Ed. There should not be problems "as long as you go in legally," he added.

"Everything that we do is sanctioned by the Koreans," he said.

Penn State may close branch campuses

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett proposed cutting funding to higher education in half in a budget address last Tuesday.

The plan, which would cut $211 million to the state-owned institutions for next year, would be the largest one-time percentage decrease to higher education in history, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Corbett called the measure "a reality-based budget." Pennsylvania has a $4 billion deficit for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

John Cavanaugh, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, told the Chronicle of Higher Education he plans to make up for the decreased funding by trimming the system's budget and looking for other sources of funding while at the same time lobbying the General Assembly to restore some of the funds.

The deficit will not simply be made up by increases to student tuition, Cavanaugh added.

At Penn State, the budget cut would reduce the state's contribution to the school's budget from 8 to 4 percent. With such a small input from the state, some have suggested privatizing the university.

But Donald Heller, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Penn State, said the state's $165 million contribution for the next fiscal year would not be "insignificant."

Penn State currently has nearly two dozen campuses across the state. Campus closures are a "significant possibility" if the budget cuts persist, said Graham Spanier, the university's president.



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