Editorial: Simmons study abroad fee an obstacle to student travel

Studying abroad is without a doubt a once-in-a-lifetime, invaluable experience. It opens your eyes and your mind to new cultures, new experiences, and new people. It allows you to travel at a time in your life when you are most flexible and energetic.

On the downside, it’s an expensive and time-consuming process. Simmons contributes to both of those problems. The Simmons Study Abroad office charges every student accepted into an accredited international program a $430 fee for services rendered, but the description of said services is ambiguous at best.

According to the Simmons website and study abroad office staff the administrative fee covers a “myriad of services” that includes both services provided by study abroad staff, such as transferring academic credit, and student financial services, which provides information on funding and the transfer of finances from Simmons to the international program. Perhaps this fee would be worth it if these services were a little more labor-intensive to the offices it goes to.

Simply put: the student talks with their academic advisor to make sure international classes are comparable to Simmons classes. The student okays the program with their department head. The student meets with the registrar to ensure credits will transfer. The student files petitions to department chairs and college administrators for formal permission, scholarship applications, financial aid paper work, and additional loan applications. Both financial services and study abroad simply send an email to the international program confirming the funds exist for the student to go and that the student has permission to study abroad, respectively. That’s it; that’s the whole enchilada. There is no faxing of paperwork, no laborious phone calls or crunching of numbers, no lengthy meetings or negotiations. Two emails. The duties are clearly unequal and in no way reflect the $430 the student is expected to pay the administration.

Let’s look at the other side of this argument: the office of study abroad is a non-essential office on Simmons campus that needs to be able to fund itself and financial services staff have to make time available to see students for this issue of study abroad funding.

Let us first address the second of these two points concerning financial services. The time devoted to a student seeking guidance on a study abroad trip is no different than the time a financial services counselor would have to make available for any other student with financial concerns. In any case, not only does school tuition pay for financial services, the department would not exist without the students therefore; staff should be available to students without an extra fee.

And to the first point about the study abroad office being non-essential: if Simmons is going to continue to tout the school as a place for future global leaders, and continue to emphasize the importance of well-rounded, globally-aware students, the study abroad process should be as easy and inexpensive as possible to ensure that all who wish to participate, despite economic concerns, are able.

Simmons College, get rid of the study abroad fee. Find another way to make a quick buck, preferably not using the already bone-dry well that is your student body. It is time for this fee to take its final journey.